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"The real impetus of voter ID laws is partisan"

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Voter Photo ID laws threaten our democracy
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here are few issues that tear at the basic fabric of democracy as much as the current assault by Republican-controlled state houses to enact voter photo ID laws, which are aimed at nothing more than restricting and suppressing eligible citizens from casting their vote. We have blogged about it and we continue to urge citizens to stay engaged and fight back at every level possible.

The Advancement Project , a national organization based in Washington , D.C. , has been one of the most vocal opponents of voter suppression laws. We urge you to visit their web site, and in particular their report What's Wrong With This Picture . The report provides some of the best analysis of the current situation and presents some of the most logical and reason-based arguments against voter ID legislation.

Judith Browne Dianis , co-director of The Advancement Project, has been a frequent guest on MSNBC and other national media outlets. She recently shared her insights and knowledge with Wisdom Voices on this critical topic that threatens the very essence of our democracy.

 

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Q. The Advancement Project does an excellent job documenting and "debunking" the myth of voter fraud. However, polling continues to show support for voter ID laws. Can the Advancement Project provide simple information/talking points that combat the knee-jerk response of "sure, there should be ID in order to vote?"

A. The public has been misled to believe that voter fraud is rampant in this country and that photo ID is necessary to protect the integrity of elections. But the reality is voter fraud is a rarity in the United States , and voter impersonation at the polls, the only incident that could be prevented by these restrictive voter ID laws, is virtually nonexistent. An extensive analysis of data from all 50 states by the U.S. Justice Department under President Bush found that most instances of improper voting involve registration and eligibility issues, none of which would be prevented by a state photo ID restriction.One academic study found photo ID restrictions would prevent less than one fraudulent vote for every 1,000 legitimate voters who would be excluded from voting by the requirement.

The real impetus of these laws is partisan.They disproportionately target African Americans, Latinos, the elderly, the young and the disabled. These are the voters who turned out in large numbers in 2008 and largely voted Democratic. It is no coincidence that the states that passed these laws are among the top electoral battleground states. Already, 20 new laws in 14 states stand to impact 5 million eligible voters in 2012 -- in states representing nearly 2/3 of the electoral votes needed to win the Presidency.

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A frequent argument is that you need ID to fly on a plane, why not require one to vote. But the TSA 's website explains one can board a plane without ID if s/he agrees to answer some questions to confirm his or her identity. Moreover, the TSA will allow travelers to present numerous forms of ID -- an ID from another state, an expired driver's license, a student ID and other forms of ID that would not be acceptable to vote under voter ID proposals.Thus the question is less about whether voters should have to present identification -- most are already required to -- but rather, how restrictive the list of acceptable ID is.

What we say:

-   These laws are part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century. They undermine the very pillar of our democracy -- the right of every citizen to have access to the ballot box.

-   These laws restrict the types of identification one can present at the polls to non-expired, government-issued photo identification produced only by the state in which the voter is registered to vote (a driver's or non-driver's license) or by the federal government. Some require the voter's current address be listed. Often, Veteran's IDs, student IDs, out of state or expired licenses and other forms of ID that can effectively verify identity are not considered acceptable.

-   Contrary to popular belief, everyone does not have a current, state-issued ID. About 11 percent of Americans - 21 million people - lack the types of identification required by these laws, including 25 percent of African Americans, 15 percent of those earning less than $35,000, 18 percent of citizens age 65 or older and 20 percent of voters age 18 to 29.

-   Voter ID laws are the new poll taxes thanks in part to requirements that now make it much more difficult to get a state ID. While voters can get a state-issued ID for free, they must pay for underlying documents, such as certified birth certificates and social security cards, needed to prove legal presence, identity and residency.

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-   These laws are being passed for partisan gain and are intended to keep groups who tend to vote Democrat from the polls. The states that passed changes to their voting laws account for 63% of the electoral votes needed to win the presidency -- 171 votes. Of the 12 battleground states, 5 have passed restrictive voting legislation.

 

Q. Has the average citizen missed an important element of the story -- that the "voter ID movement" is a coordinated effort by the Republicans, via ALEC?

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Joanne Boyer is founder and editor of Wisdom Voices Press and www.WisdomVoices.com. Her first book is "Wisdom of Progressive Voices." Joanne has worked in professional communications for more than 30 years. Her career includes being the first (more...)
 

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