Lawmakers want to ensure minorities’ civil rights are not violated.
Donna Brazile is one of the nation’s most powerful African-American political operatives. Thank goodness, because when her sister tried to cast her ballot during the 2000 election, she knew her rights; when she was illegally asked by poll workers to produce multiple forms of identification and proof of residency, she was prepared.
“She knew her rights, and fought for them, but there are hundreds of thousands of voters who suffer the same indignity in silence,” Brazile wrote in an email asking voters to support a Democratic Governors Association’s Voter Protection Project to fight Republican-controlled efforts to strengthen voter ID laws throughout the country. “Her story is just one of too many, most of which never get heard. Sometimes you don’t realize how important the right to vote is until you lose it. Let’s make sure no one in America ever has to experience that loss again.”
Although voter ID laws that have been implemented or are being proposed offer the requisite identification cards at no cost, opponents of the measures say that they do in fact impose costs related to getting the free cards, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses and other forms of proof of residency that present a financial burden for African-Americans, college students and the elderly. In addition, they say, states could spend a collective $278 million to $828 million to implement them, while cutting other more vital services.
A group of 16 U.S. senators sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday asking him to examine new voter ID laws to ensure that they will not have a discriminatory impact on minority voters, and that they comply with the Voting Rights Act.
“Studies have shown that as high as 11 percent of eligible voters nationwide do not have a government-issued ID. This percentage is higher for seniors, racial minorities, low income voters and students,” they wrote. “Highly restrictive photo identification requirements at the polls can make it more difficult for well-intentioned voters to cast their ballots, and as far as America’s civil rights trajectory is concerned, that sort of effect takes America in the wrong direction.”
Brazile, who is vice chair of the Democratic National Committee’s voter registration and participation initiative, agrees.
“Republican legislatures are working overtime to get restrictive voting laws in front of their Republican governors for signature in time for next year’s election,” she said.
(Photo: Larry Busacca /Getty Images)