COMMENTARY | The state of Texas, among others, is challenging the 1965 Voting Rights Act that guaranteed access to the polls for minorities throughout the country. A total of 34 states have enacted legislation to restrict voting through the production of photo IDs, proof of citizenship, birth certificates, and other documentary requirements.
In the Texas case, a concealed gun permit is good enough for identification, but a university registration is not? These new laws are a response to alleged voters fraud that is threatening our elections. But is this the case or is there another reason?
In the 2002-2004 election cycle (including a congressional and a presidential election) there were only 9 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation, the type of fraud these laws are designed to prevent. A total of 26 convictions for voting-related offenses were recorded in the same time period.
In Texas, which faces a $10 billion budget shortfall, the legislation was sold as an “emergency measure” that “costs nothing.” However, in the much smaller state of Missouri, a similar requirement costs about $20 million annually, so Texas can be expected to spend much more on the effort. From a cost perspective, it can be expected to cost between $5 million and $10 million per potential fraudulent voter. I, for one, do not need my tax dollars spent for such a misguided application of limited resources.
So why not just call it what it is — a law to limit the rights of otherwise qualified voters to cast a ballot. The impact on those without photo IDs, typically minorities and the elderly since the driver’s license is the most common form, can be nothing but disproportionate.
Additionally, the costs imposed on minorities and the one in six Americans that live below the poverty line (not only minorities, in case you wondered), constitutes a new form of “poll tax,” a policy overturned decades ago in the interests of fairness. Requiring a voter to be qualified is obvious. Requiring one to jump through bureaucratic hurdles, and spend money for documents and an ID that does nothing but grant the right to vote, is a tax. As such, it is intended for one thing only: restricting voters rights.
Maybe we should spend the millions of dollars that states are budgeting for these new limits in the ability of the American public to exercise its right to vote on voters education, or even in upgrading the current free system of voters registration to include a photo ID, rather than on enforcement efforts to stop a problem that is not evident, except in the fantasies of many of the supporters of these laws.
But when you dig deeper, it is the restrictive legislative agenda of a few well-connected politicians and their supporters at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group known for efforts to repeal the minimum wage, restrict union activities, repeal the capital gains tax while touting the benefits of adding CO2 to the atmosphere to create more global climate change. For my choice, though, I would rather support community activities that foster greater voter turnout rather than billions to keep the handful of unauthorized voters from participating.