It appears that the Republican Party may be turning to a new strategy to win elections this upcoming cycle. In 33 states, new laws have been proposed or enacted that make voter laws much stricter. These laws appear to be aimed at groups that are historically presumed to be Democratic voters, including the elderly, poor, disabled, minority and youth voters.
These laws cause concern with Democrats and others. Presidential advisor David Axelrod told the Washington Post’s The Fix that 33 Republican governors are trying to create tougher voting requirements and that most of those measures are aimed at young people.
The new laws require that voters present specific forms of government-issued photo IDs in order to receive a ballot.
In Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Minnesota and Ohio, voters must present a current state ID. Most states already require some form of identification to vote, however these can range from a driver’s license to a bank statement.
These bills were introduced by Republican lawmakers under the premise of counter-acting voter fraud, when in fact no such phenomenon widely exists. Studies have shown that actual voter impersonation is so rare that it is practically non-existent.
While Republicans claim that the existence of voter fraud is so rampant that is has damaged their party’s electoral successes, in the past five years only 120 people have been charged with the crime, and only 86 were convicted.
When juxtaposed against the tens of millions who voted in 2008 alone, it seems almost comical that it would be the focus of such a concerted effort. Yet still, many on the far-right cited ACORN as complicit in “stealing” the 2008 presidential election.
How much of an impact might these laws have upon the American electorate? According to studies by the Advancement Project, approximately 11 percent of American citizens (21 million) lack a current government photo ID. Percentages are higher among specific groups: 25 percent of African Americans, 20 percent of 18-29 year olds, 15 percent of those who make under $35k annually, and 18 percent of senior citizens are without a current government-issued photo ID.
Many may be confused as to how so many can be without a current photo ID, but many Americans do not own or drive a car, and may not be aware that they can go to a motor vehicle department to obtain a state ID card. Many more are ignorant of their states pre-Election day voter registration dates and requirements.
Due to the implications of these new laws, the head of the South Carolina NAACP dubbed his state’s new voter ID laws, “Jim Crow Jr.”
These new laws appear to be part of a larger movement of voter suppression across the country. This includes so-called voter challengers bill proposals that would require proofs of citizenship prior to registration, axing same-day registration, and limiting the voting rights of those with criminal records.
In Texas, the King Street Patriots, a tea party-backed group, has announced a “True Vote” campaign in which they pledge to place one million volunteers in polling places around the country. They would act as “challengers” to voters and would utilize the new photo ID laws to limit voter eligibility.
These efforts to limit voting access have been linked to right-wing partisan backers including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, a major source of financial support for the tea party movement. The billionaire Koch brothers have been known to give to many pro-GOP campaigns; most recently to the campaign of Scott Walker who as the Republican Governor of Wisconsin has also pushed these voter-limiting laws as well as stripping union rights.
Many on the right claim that voting is a privilege, rather than a right. This claim has been recently reiterated by Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Republican.
Those who believe that the democratic process is a right to all citizens of the Unites States should be alarmed at these recent developments. According to Advancement Project’s Denise Lieberman, “Elections cannot be fair and free unless they are open to every eligible voter.”