Voter ID Bills Disproportionately Disenfranchise Democrats

Voter ID bills are on my mind today. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican, is poised to sign a new state Voter ID bill into law today. Introduced by foaming-at-the-mouth radical right wing-nut State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, it’s currently back in the State House after being passed in the Senate last week. It should be on the Governor’s desk some time today. The sole purpose of this bill is to suppress the vote in November by disenfranchising people who traditionally form the Democratic base: women, the poor, African-Americans, Latinos and the elderly. It’s a Republican monkey-see, monkey-do ALEC-inspired ploy that’s sweeping state houses across the nation.

Pennsylvania’s bill follows in the wake of voter ID bills in two other states being blocked, and a third, in Virginia, waiting to be signed. The Justice Department issued an opinion regarding the unconstitutionality of the Texas bill, and a judge in Wisconsin ruled for the League of Women Voters in Wisconsin (bless them!), that the voter ID bill Governor Scott Walker signed into law unconstitutionally deprived Wisconsin citizens of their right to vote. 

Wisconsin judge Richard Niess wrote:

“Without question, where it exists, voter fraud corrupts elections and undermines our form of government. The legislature and governor may certainly take aggressive action to prevent its occurrence. But voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression. Indeed, they are two heads on the monster.

“A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence – the people’s inherent pre-constitutional right to vote- imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people and especially of the people. It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution.”

Unfortunately, some of what worked to stall the Texas and Wisconsin bills may not work in Pennsylvania or other states. Wisconsin’s bill actually violates Wisconsin’s state constitution, which defines a voter as a resident of the state- all you have to do is live where you vote. In the Texas case, the Department of Justice was able to show latino voters were twice as likely to be disenfranchised in the state as a result of the law. Of course, these decisions will be appealed.

15 states currently have voter ID laws on the books. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 34 states introduced voter ID bills in 2011. About 11% of eligible voters do not have government-issued photo ID. Voter ID requirements place additional burdens on low-income, African-American and the elderly, among other constituencies.

The PEW Center on the States released this graphic today which illustrates the mystery of the so-called fraudulent votes in South Carolina, used to justify a voter ID bill in that state. South Carolina is nonetheless suing the Department of Justice for its opposition to their law.

In Pennsylvania and other states, voter fraud has also been the justification for more stringent rules regarding polling. However, in Pennsylvania, since 2004, among 20 million votes cast, only 6 cases of voter fraud have been found. In Ohio, the number is similar, and similarly absurd, as Stephen Colbert mentioned in his report on the issue (below).

There can be no mistake about the motive behind these Republican tactics: it is to suppress Democratic turnout in the November election. Because, as Stephen Colbert said, “The most insidious form of fraud is people voting wrong.”



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