Even in states where laws have been allowed to stand (Georgia, South Carolina), they’ve been subjected to significant modifications. After the tide of racist lawmaking at disenfranchising people of color and other minority voters in recent years, advocates are fighting back, winning and reaffirming voting rights for all Americans.
In Wisconsin, the law would have required voters to present a photo ID to cast a ballot, something that would have disproportionately affected poor Wisconsites and people of color living in the state, as both communities can encounter problems when it comes to obtaining photo identifications. With help from the ACLU, Wisconsin resident Ruthelle Frank filed a federal challenge to the law, arguing that it violated the 14th and 24th Amendments, which, among other things, protect the right to vote and ban the use of poll taxes in the United States. As it stood, it also violated the Voting Rights Act, by effectively targeting those of minority backgrounds.
By requiring people to have IDs at the polls, states are more or less instituting a poll tax on those who do not have them. Obtaining an identification can be a costly process for people who were born at home, didn’t have their births registered, or have inconsistent identification documents that would need to be corrected by court order, likely at high cost.
Depending on a voter’s situation, it can cost hundreds of dollars to obtain a form of identification that will be accepted at the polls, which may not be economically feasible for people who are low income or don’t have the resources to seek out free assistance.
It’s not just advocacy groups like the ACLU that are challenging voter ID laws and other discriminatory legislation on a state-by-state basis, either. The Department of Justice is also getting involved, enforcing the Voting Rights Act with suits requiring states to strike down or radically alter voting-related legislation unless they can prove there’s a compelling reason to leave it in place — and that the laws don’t adversely affect people of color and other minorities. This push to protect voting rights is part of a larger aggressive civil rights enforcement campaign on the behalf of the Obama Administration, which is fighting to protect children, disabled people, people of color, women and other marginalized groups.
This may be yet another victory in a growing list, but it’s not the end of the line. Activists are aware that they can’t bask in the light of another law struck down, as opponents are already preparing appeals, and many more states still have or are planning to pass such laws. The fight against voter discrimination is far from over, especially when some of those seated on the bench of the Supreme Court believe that voter discrimination is a problem of our past, not a real and present danger.
Photo credit: KOMUnews.