“Bloody Sunday” Reminds Voters that Restrictive Voter ID Laws Don’t Work
Thanks to Ohio’s rigid efforts to suppress voters’ rights, an 86-year-old World War II veteran with a government issued ID was unable to vote.
The veteran, who no longer drives, obtained a new photo ID from the Veterans Administration. But when he went to vote, the poll worker denied him access because his new ID did not include his address. Current Ohio state law requires photo identification that includes an address.
Ohio’s new voter ID laws are sure to promote this kind of injustice. The poll worker’s strict interpretation of the law has caused civil rights activists to draw parallels to “Bloody Sunday,” the peaceful 1965 protest for voters rights that erupted in devastating violence in Selma, Alabama.
Legislative moves to change the voting laws began in earnest in 2011. Photo-ID bills were signed into law in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin and Ohio. In context this means 11% of American voters — over 21 million people — are eligible to vote but cannot do so. According to the Brennan Center, five million Americans could be affected by the new rules, more than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
In the National Urban League’s State of Black America report released earlier this week, the Urban League calls for an “Occupy the Vote” movement. Their goal is to maintain the levels realized in the 2008 election when one in four votes were cast by non-whites. Data from the Pew Research Center indicates the turnout rates of minorities in this election were unprecedented. The National Urban League hopes to continue this trend.
The new state voting laws are particularly restrictive and exclude common forms of photo and non-photo-ID that were acceptable in the past. Individuals like my mother, who was born at home, are recorded on Census Reports, but without birth certificates, they are in a jam. Student ID and Social Security cards are not valid. So youth away at college may also have difficulties.
Supporters of the new state voting laws say stricter requirements will stem voter fraud. However, the Justice Department’s statistics covering all fifty states report that voter fraud is rare.
You may have seen the video on the evening news where conservative activist James O’ Keefe attempted to demonstrate how easily voter fraud takes place. O’Keefe is seen making a big deal about the fact that he does not have identification when he goes into the polling station. He is told by poll workers this is okay, and he is given a ballot. Upon watching the video I was thinking, this is so fake. He is white, male and somewhat youngish. He states he has no photo ID, gives a name that can easily be found and that is the end of story. It is not as though he was someone unexpected.
In addition to the photo ID laws, 12 states introduced proof of citizenship legislation. Previously only 2 states had passed these laws and that number has doubled. Thirteen states have introduced bills to end same day voter registration.
These changes will affect the poor, minorities, college students and seniors just as they did in the case of the 86-year-old veteran. To ensure that citizens vote, the Cost of Freedom Project, a citizen-led initiative, is looking for $10,000 funding to complete the development of a location-based app to help citizens who have no official photo ID figure out where to get a certified copy of their birth certificate or how to get to the Department of Motor Vehicles. They have raised $1,320 of the $25,000 and have until April 4 to reach their goal.
Photo from Kevin Saff via Wikimedia Commons