Voter ID Laws Place The Rights Of Americans Under Attack

By U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution forbids any state to infringe on “the right to vote” for any citizen. But that right is under attack. There is a War on Voting in this country and, wherever you live, you need to be paying attention.

All over the country, states are making it harder for people to vote. In dozens of state legislatures, the new and expanded Republican majorities are pushing and even enacting policies that are proven to lead to the disfranchisement of eligible voters. When asked why, the proponents of these bills always claim that they are needed to prevent voter fraud. When asked for examples of such fraud, however, they go silent. Occasionally, we get allegations of the dead voting but find that the voter is actually still alive, as happened recently in Kansas, or died after casting his ballot, as we saw in South Carolina in January. The simple fact is that there is no evidence of the kind of in-person voter fraud that these laws are supposedly designed to prevent.

But we know that the laws will deny eligible voters of their constitutionally protected right to vote because such laws have done so in the past. Whether it’s requiring identification to cast a ballot, drastically reducing or altogether eliminating early voting periods, or throwing arbitrary and unnecessary regulations into the registration process, the only outcome of the “War on Voting” is the inevitable turning away of eligible voters.

Some people think that requiring ID to vote is a reasonable request. For millions of us, showing a photo ID is an everyday thing. That’s because 89% of us have such an ID. But that means that 11% percent of eligible American voters do not have a photo ID. That’s approximately 23 million people who face an extra burden if they want to exercise the same rights as the rest of us. If every state imposed a voter ID law like the one passed in Texas last year, 23 million people would not be able to vote. To get an ID, even a “free” one, carries costs. The most obvious: You have to show your birth certificate. Don’t have one and you’ll have to pay $22 to get a copy. That’s $22 we’re asking of poor Texans and elderly Texans living on a fixed income to participate in our democracy. That sure sounds to me like a violation of the 24th Amendment’s prohibition on poll taxes.

This law will also cost the state a great deal of money. While the Texas legislature claims otherwise, simple logic makes this obvious. If you’re going to have the approximately 600,000 Texans who don’t have ID showing up to collect one, you’re going to need more workers and more time to process their applications. Bexar County, Texas, has already spent thousands of dollars just to alert people to the existence of the new law. Imagine that spread across every county in Texas or in the country and you begin to see another direct cost these laws will impose on taxpayers.

President Bush spent five years and millions of dollars to find a rate of approximately 0.00002%. Texas Attorney General Abbott put out a press release in 2006 entitled, “Let’s Stamp Out Voter Fraud in Texas”, but couldn’t name a single case of fraud that would have been stopped by voter ID. That’s because there is no in-person voter fraud. Voter ID laws attempt to solve a problem that does not exist and, as a result, millions of Americans, hundreds of thousands of Texans and tens of thousands of San Antonians could see their voting rights diminished. The right to vote is just that: A right. It is not a mere privilege. It must be protected.

[Photo By whiteafrican]

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