Commentary: The Obscene Strategy at the Core of the Voter ID Laws

Voter ID

Commentary: The Obscene Strategy at the Core of the Voter ID Laws

The voter ID laws being enacted around the country are politically motivated.

Published July 31, 2012

To get a true sense of what the rash of voter identification laws are really all about, there is no better depiction of the political and racial motivation than the recent comments by Mike Turzai, the majority leader of the Republican controlled House of Representatives.

Turzai unwittingly revealed in no uncertain terms what the true strategy is in his state, which is now in court over changes in voter identification rules that could lead to at least a tenth of Pennsylvania voters being rendered ineligible to cast ballots in November.

Speaking to a gathering of the state’s Republican State Committee, Turzai listed the accomplishments of the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania.

"Pro-Second Amendment? The Castle Doctrine, it's done," Turzai said, "First pro-life legislation — abortion facility regulations — in 22 years, done. Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."

With that, the Republican official made unmistakably clear that the move to change voter laws is not just politically motivated but also racially driven. In passing laws that require state-issued ID to vote, the Republicans have effectively cut nearly a million Pennsylvanians from being able to cast ballots in the November election, many of them Black.

For two years now, Republican officials in Pennsylvania and more than a dozen other states have contended that new voter laws were necessary because of what they called a significant level of voter fraud. And on a state-by-state basis, they have passed legislation that civil rights groups and others have condemned because they are likely to lower the number of voters who are African-American, Latino, students and elderly.

What makes the changes even more sinister is the fact that there is little to no evidence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania or any of the other 18 states that are attempting to change voter laws. 

Tom Corbett, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, effectively acknowledged that when he defended the new laws as necessary to prevent any future voter fraud while implicitly admitting that there had been no such violations to speak of in his state in the past.

Meanwhile, Jim Greer, the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, has accused Republican leaders in his state of engaging in voter suppression aimed specifically at Black Floridians. The accusations were made in statements given under sworn testimony in a deposition surrounding a lawsuit he filed over an unpaid severance.

As Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization, said: “This is the broadest rollback of voting rights that we have seen in a century.”

The singular objective in these voter identification laws is to defeat President Obama. And the Republican right figures that restricting the voting rights of Black Americans and other Democratic-leaning categories is as fine a way as any to achieve that goal. So passionate, so filled with red-hot rage are these Republicans about the incumbency of the nation’s first Black president that they are in perfect comfort about the obscene prospect of denying select Americans of their constitutional right to vote.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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