Are GOP-Run Legislatures Trying to Take Away Your Voting Rights?

Stricter new voter ID laws are becoming a disturbing trend.

Posted: 03/29/2011 12:50 PM EDT

Several states around the nation are considering legislation that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID when they turn up at the polls, and some states have already passed stricter voter ID laws. Taken at face value, it doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable request, but in Ohio, for example, the most recent state to pass such a law, approximately 890,000 residents don’t have a government-issued photo ID. Nationwide, 25 percent of African-Americans and 15 percent of low-income people don’t either. These laws also make it more difficult for students who don’t attend public universities to vote because they can't use their campus IDs at the polls.

Proponents say such measures are necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud, even though there is little evidence that this is a pervasive problem. Civil rights advocates say it’s simply an attempt to disenfranchise reliably Democratic voters and a 21st century form of Jim Crow.

“We’ve done extensive research and reporting and know this whole voter fraud issue is much ado about nothing,” said Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Ultimately, all it does is suppress the vote among people who are the most challenged and who have the most difficulty obtaining IDs.”

Implementing the new laws could cost a state approximately $2 million or more because it must provide a free photo ID to anyone who needs it, educate voters about the new law and train poll workers. And technically, the IDs aren’t really free if you have to pay for copies of your birth certificate or other documentation to get it, Gaskins warned. More important, many of the states considering the law face budget shortfalls in the billions.

“They’re cutting funding for education, public safety, roads and infrastructure to invest in a solution for a nonproblem,” Gaskins said. “Two million dollars in the face of a $6 billion shortfall may not seem like much, but it sounds like real money when it could be used for teachers, firefighters, etc.”

(Photo Credit:  Lucy NIicholson/Reuters /Landov)

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