Estimates are that 10 percent of Americans don't have a photo ID.
Updated: July 24, 2012 - 6:17 PM
Anything that makes it more difficult for people to vote in this democracy is wrong. Unfortunately, it's nothing new.
Go back to Reconstruction and you will find plenty of examples. Oh heck, go back to 1607 and the Jamestown settlers.
Although there were only seven settlers involved in trying to set up an election in England's first permanent settlement in America, there were problems. Only six of them got to vote for the colony's council president. The seventh was denied a vote on suspicion of concealing a mutiny.
In the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, newly freed blacks made up the majority of the populations in Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina. In four other former Confederate states, blacks made up more than 40 percent of the population.
That's when white Democrats, fearing the power of the black voting bloc, allied with white supremacist organizations to intimidate and use violence to prevent blacks and poor whites from voting. Efforts to throw stumbling blocks in the paths of such voters didn't end there.
By the turn of the 20th century, voter suppression measures had become slightly more sophisticated. Poll taxes and literacy tests were part of the Jim Crow laws that enforced the "separate but equal" status of blacks. The last vestiges of these laws were not erased until the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forced some Southern states to give up literacy tests.
As Hofstra University law professor Grant M. Hayden, a sage observer of our nation's rocky history with regard to voting rights, put it: "The history of voting in the United States has not been characterized by a smooth and inexorable progress toward universal political participation. It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both expansion and retraction of the franchise with respect to many groups of potential voters."
These days, people would decry violence or literacy tests. But since the mid-2000s, the craze in voter suppression is requiring photo identification.
People with passports, drivers' licenses and other forms of government-issued photo ID can't understand why everyone doesn't have one. But estimates are that 10 percent of Americans don't.
They tend to be poor, black, elderly or disabled people in urban areas who do not drive cars. They tend to vote Democratic.
The vote suppression effort started before the 2004 presidential election with a concerted effort by Republican operatives to hold down turnout in Democratic precincts. In state after state, Republican legislators began sponsoring photo ID laws.
The legislatures were undeterred by facts - compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice - that show instances of voter fraud because of fraudulent identity occur less frequently than deaths by lightning.
Even so, 30 states have some voter photo ID law. Missouri's latest attempt at photo ID was thrown out by the courts. Expect it to return.
Some states have now turned to "purging" voter rolls. Georgia managed to disqualify 98,000 eligible voters when it did its purge in 2008. Nearly all of these "purges" are badly flawed in favor of Republicans. What a coincidence.
There is no excuse for not voting - at least not yet and not for most of us. But do it while you can. You never know when someone will try to take that right away from you.
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