The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is clear: "No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." Voter ID laws violate this federal act by making a practice out of requiring ID cards for all voters. Because of this practice, many among the poor, to include significant numbers of the black poor, will not be able to afford an ID card, or will have to travel long distances to acquire one. The result is that poor blacks will find it more difficult to vote, and many will not vote at all.
This is common sense. But, don't take it from me! A unanimous panel of judges in Texas ruled last week that Texas' voter ID law was in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because of the reasons mentioned above (please, check out the NY Times story at the above link). This wasn't a good week for Texas, as a different panel of judges in the same court struck down a recent redistricting law for violating the very same federal act. Who was behind this discriminatory legislation? Republicans - no less a Republican as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for one.
In fact, Republicans are pushing for voter ID laws in nearly every state. Thanks to Governor Perdue's veto, Republicans in NC failed to see such legislation become the law in NC. But, give them another shot in control of the legislature, and it will only be a matter of time.
Why do Republicans want to pass laws that so obviously disenfranchise minority voters? They cite an increase in voter fraud, but they often admit that evidence of voter fraud is hard to detect. That part, at least, is true. Evidence of voter fraud in the US is virtually nonexistent. Might there be another reason? Frankly, because poor minority voters overwhelmingly vote with Democrats, the reason for Republican zeal on this issue is plain. Many Republicans just want for some people not to be able to vote. Most of those people just happen to be black.
Lee GOP chair Charles Staley recently told the L.A. Times that the reason blacks tend to vote for Democrats is because the Democrats have paid them off in social services. What a horrible thing to say about a whole group of Americans, just because they aren't on your side, Mr. Staley. Your party's hellish bent towards forcing so many minority voters to sit at home on election day seems a much more obvious reason to me why those minority groups aren't clamoring to the GOP platform.
Voter ID laws solve a problem that doesn't exist, while creating new problems that violate American Civil Rights laws. I guess the GOP just gave up on trying to fix the economy in favor of pulling out the tired, old, conservative political playbook to set legislative agendas across the country (marriage amendment, anyone?). But, that's a whole other story, isn't it?