On your mark, get set, go!
First, hurtle through a narrow ball of fire. Faster. Next, spell your mother’s maiden name – backwards. Next, stand on one foot, rub your stomach, and pat your head at the same time. Finished? Now you can cast your vote.
If you think that completing an obstacle course to cast a vote is ridiculous, you’re not alone. However, throughout history, the United States has put multiple barriers in the way of casting a ballot. Previously, literacy tests, and poll taxes served as a disincentive to vote. Currently, the recently passed Pennsylvania voter identification law quiets the voting voice of the lower class, young and elderly.
In March 2012, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved House Bill 934, with a 104–88 vote. The law requires all voters to present photo identification at all voting polls. If a voter is without ID, they may cast a ballot if they present election officials with an acceptable ID within six days.
The voter ID law emphasizes how history repeats itself. This nation has a long history of voting deterrents. During the late 1800s, Southern states implemented poll taxes and literacy taxes to restrict the votes of African-Americans.
The voter ID law will cause the same restrictions. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, approximately 12 percent of the country’s eligible voters may not have a government-issued photo ID, with an even higher percentage for students, seniors and minorities.
Because the law states that IDs must have an expiration date, many college students’ ID cards are unacceptable. Under this law, a Temple Owl Card is unacceptable.
Pennsylvania college students aren’t the only ones in this situation. Similar issues are occurring across the U.S. After Texas state legislators cut student IDs from the list of acceptable voter identifications last May, some college students were left without proper identification.
Not only are students hurt by this legislation, but the elderly are also targeted. According to political science professor Carol Jenkins, these are the most obviously targeted group.
“Many no longer drive, and their lack of mobility restricts them for traveling to state offices, standing in line, filling out the paperwork et cetera to get the ID,” Jenkins said. “The African-American elderly will be particularly impacted, since many migrated from the South and cannot produce a birth certificate. Older people vote in high numbers, so this bill will suppress the voter turnout.”
Supporters of the bill, mostly republicans, have claimed that it will solve “voter fraud.” However, there is essentially no fraud to solve. According to 2006 Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud happens approximately 0.0009 percent of the time. Additionally, the study found “no documented trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible”.
The Brennan Center for Justice also addressed whether such photo ID policies deter voter fraud, “The only misconduct that photo ID addresses is the kind of voter fraud that happens as infrequently as death by lightning.”
In reality, the “problem” that the voter ID law is solving is the democratic vote.
Currently, republicans have initiated voting ID bills in 32 states. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that the states with new voting laws make up 185 electoral votes or two-thirds of the necessary total to win the presidency. Within the Brennan Center for Justice’s Policy Brief, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program, Lawrence Norden, labeled the laws as “a state-based assault on voting.”
Across the country, democrats, civil liberties groups, labor unions, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Advancement for the Advancement of Colored People are challenging these bills.
Unfortunately, until these groups meet success, ID checks at ballots will take place during upcoming elections. Hopefully, these groups will manage to secure proper identification so that we don’t lose their voice as we did in past generations.
Emily DiCicco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.