Opinion: Laws Restricting the Right to Vote are Wrong

Friday, September 28, 2012 - 01:00 PM

With the presidential election just a few weeks away, a panel of three federal judges this week questioned whether South Carolina should wait until 2014 to put its voter ID law into effect.

As attorneys for South Carolina delivered closing arguments in the trial over the validity of a new state law in the state, the judges in the case pondered whether the law would discriminate against minorities.  Last December, the Justice Department refused to "preclear" the law — find it complies with the Voting Rights Act — so it could go into effect.

Voter identification laws have become a major point of contention in this year's presidential election, given the close race between Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, a Democrat.  These laws could prevent key constituencies from voting, making a difference for Democrats in tight races.

While supporters have pitched the laws as tools against voter fraud and to build confidence in the election system, the laws are in reality a Republican response to 2008's record turnout of African-American and Hispanic voters.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law in 2008, and Georgia's top court upheld that state's voter ID law. But a three-judge federal panel struck down Texas' voter ID law, and state courts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have blocked those states' voter ID laws  -- for now. The Justice Department cleared New Hampshire's voter ID law earlier this year.

The South Carolina law requires voters to show a driver's license or other photo identification issued by the Motor Vehicles Department, a passport, military photo identification or a voter registration card with a photo on it.

Asking questions from the bench, the judges pointed out that if they allow South Carolina to implement the law, voters in the Palmetto State would not have much time before the November 6th elections to get the required forms of identification.

Democrats say the South Carolina law, and others like it, have a disproportionate effect on poor communities and among minorities and the elderly. Of course, these are voters who tend to vote for Democrats. But its interest in the case doesn't make the party wrong about these wrong-headed requirements.

Yes, we need to be concerned about voter fraud. At the same time, voter ID requirements are terribly reminiscent of literacy tests and the post-reconstruction requirement that African Americans, long denied an education in this country, sign their names before voting.  Any court that examines these requirements is right to question the intent and implementation to ensure comportment with the civil right to vote.

A decision in the South Carolina case is expected in early October and could have national implications because it is expected to continue up to the U.S. Supreme Court.


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Comments [9]

Barton Jacka from California

I could live with a "voter ID" law - provided all valid voters could readily obtain the ID - if they didn't try time it for the closest election. Let it go into effect in 4 years and create a mechanism whereby everyone can get what he needs without paying a tax (fee). Then put on the parties the job of getting people registered etc.

It's ironic that the same folks who go into revolutionary hysterics about the government giving you a choice between purchasing health insurance or paying a $600 tax, or who want everyone and his deranged brother to buy an Uzi at the local flea market also want the government to make everyone carry around government-issued ID, like good little Soviets.

Oct. 03 2012 09:12 AM


Oct. 02 2012 01:11 PM

Enforcing modern voting laws today is in no way "terribly reminiscent of literacy tests" in the the post-reconstruction era in the Solid South. It was there the corrupt Democratic Party machine obsessed with race and political power intimidated African-Americans and other members of the Republican Party to maintain power.
It's interesting how that history is often left out of the discussion for some reason.
During that same period the Democratic Party machines in New York and Chicago also could not be trusted on election day.

In most of Europe voters must bring identification to vote. If we are supposed to pattern ourselves after every industrialized democracy around the world when it comes to welfare, education and heath care then why not copy their strict voter identification laws?

Sep. 30 2012 10:07 AM
Hugh Chatfield from Lower East Side

I would love to volunteer to register voters. Is there any organization that can help me with this?

Sep. 29 2012 09:33 PM
Jake from Nassau County

I'm definitely mostly liberal, definitely voting for Obama, but I'm with the Republicans on this one. A few elections ago, I got to the polls very late and found that I had already voted. I protested, and was allowed to file a complaint and to cast a ballot. Of course the fraudulent vote was also counted, and no one ever followed up on my complaint (after one brief phone call from the city); what could they do anyway ? And what about the many people who never even get to the polls to discover that their vote has been hijacked ? So how can anyone assert with such confidence that this is not a big problem ?

That said, I agree with electedface and We_Hold_These_Truths above.

Sep. 29 2012 05:47 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey


Sep. 29 2012 09:11 AM

If the Republican state administrations and legislations that pass these laws were truly interested in preventing voter fraud then they should literally put their money where their mouth is. They should have written the law with a consequence for state if they interferred with, limited or denied a legimiate voter from being able to vote. Something like, if any legally entitled and eligible voter is denied the right or opportunity to vote through the enforcement of their legislative endeavor then the state is held financial responsible for some reasonable amount of money to be paid as a fine to the offended person. Additionally, the state organizations of the dominate political party in that state would be held culpable for similar damages to be paid to the disenfranchised voter. Now clearly everyone would agree that an individuals' right to vote is beyond value so the fine will logically have to be less than that true value. I would propose a $1 billion dollar fine for the state and a $2 billion dollar fine for the dominant political party. All fines from the state party organization would have to be paid before any political funds could be used by that party or any affiliated group for any purpose other than settling the fine. If this condition were violated no member of that party could hold office until they had paid down the fine.

Surely this would be a fair compromise to protect the public from the almost non-existent voter fraud. Or they could just promote a law that provided a simple and easy way to support voter registration and eliminate fraud by having self-identifying fraud controls in the process. While this would be easier, cheaper and more in concert with our American values, it is not as satisfying as the puffery of promoting yourself as someone protecting America when they are actually weakening it.

Sep. 28 2012 09:10 PM
jami floyd

Thank you electedface for caring enough to comment and to get involved.

Sep. 28 2012 08:10 PM

There is nothing wrong with requiring an ID to vote.


There IS something wrong with implementing this new law 9 months before a presidential election. If voter fraud was so rampant in the last election, why didn't the GOP rush to pass this law immediately after the 2008 election? Wait until the 2016 election to impose this, that way it will give people 4 years to get their act together, and THEN you can give them the 'you have no excuse' treatment.

Watch the video and sign the petition to end Voter Suppression.

Sep. 28 2012 03:20 PM

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