by Vanessa Haugh, Online Organizing Fellow, Energy Action Coalition
Earlier this month, my home state of North Carolina succesfully fought off stricter voting laws that would require a government photo ID to vote. It was a relief. The legislature had failed to override Governor Perdue's veto of the bill, and an onslaught of bills that would make voting more difficult for thousands of people failed to pass too. Other states are facing there own battles against voter ID laws. In 2011 and 2012, 11 states passed voter ID laws. Looking at this trend, I'm reminded that that power elite will continually do what it takes to gain more power.
In Pennsylvania, the NAACP is involved in a lawsuit over a new voter ID law, which prevents more than 9% of the state without a driver’s license or state identification from voting. Most of these voters live in urban areas, where many poor people and minorities tend to live. Mike Turzai, majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, made it clear that the new voter ID laws have the potential to suppress key democratic votes in the presidential election, helping the republican party win battleground states. Turzai ran through a checklist of recent accomplishments by the GOP-controlled Legislature, including their efforts to tighten voting laws. He says confidently, "voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania--done." Turzai forgot to stick to the claim that voter ID laws are an effort to prevent voter fraud.
Voter fraud is extremely rare. Between 2000 and 2010, there were only 13 credible cases of voter fraud. That’s 13 out of the 649 million votes that were cast in general elections over the past ten years. Voter fraud is a bad front for these efforts to shape the electorate by suppressing young, old, minority, and low-income votes. While 8% of white voting age citizens don't have IDs, 25% of African American, 20% of Asian Americans, 19% of Latinos, 18% of young American (18-24), 18% of seniors, and 15% of low-income voting age citizens dont have a government issued photo ID. Many of these potentially suppressed votes come from groups that have historically tended to vote democratic.
When we go to the polls in November, many of us will be making a compromise, because we have only two options for president that likely don't allign with all of our values. But who wins will result in tangible differences in our lives. The new voter ID laws make me even more determined to vote and to encourage friends to vote. These laws are truly oppressive attempts to muffle millions of voices, state by state. Now is the time to highlight the ongoing disenfranchisement, and to help each other be prepared for coming elections.