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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Voter ID obstructs voting

    When the Supreme Court released an opinion at 5 a.m. on Oct. 18 allowing Texas to implement its new voter identification law during this election, SCOTUSblog called it the first time in 32 years that the Supreme Court had allowed a law restricting voting rights to move forward.

    Texas’ law requires voters to present a driver’s license, gun license, military ID or passport at the polls in order to vote.

    At first glance, this idea doesn’t sound too bad. In fact, it sounds like a smart way to ensure that adult U.S. citizens are the only ones voting and that each of those citizens exercise their right only once. But it’s important to look at what the implementation of this law can mean for certain eligible voters.

    If a person does not have an ID, they can obtain a free one. But in order to obtain the free ID, they must provide a birth certificate or — in the case of a married woman whose name has been changed — a birth certificate and marriage license. According to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, these documents can cost anywhere between $8 and $25 to obtain.

    For comparison, the notorious poll tax would cost $10.64 now.

    The Brennan Center also found that roughly half a million people in America have no car and live more than 10 miles from the nearest office that issues IDs.

    This law, and others like it, targets African-Americans and Hispanics and is racial discrimination at its worst.

    Moreover, it hurts our democracy. The law denies low-income and racial-minority families the right to try and change their lives. We can’t have self-government that watches out for the needs of all citizens unless all citizens participate.

    According to The New York Times, the law may prevent 600,000 registered Texas voters from voting this election. That’s 4.5 percent of all voters.

    The Guardian tracked down some of these 600,000 voters.

    Born and raised in Austin, Texas, 45-year-old Eric Kennie can’t get an ID because his birth certificate accidentally lists his mother’s maiden name as his surname.

    In Houston, according to The Huffington Post, a 93-year-old veteran was turned away because his license had been expired for too long.

    A 61-year-old woman named Madeleine was turned away when trying to vote because her license is suspended while she’s on a payment plan to pay off her parking tickets. Her disability means she’s qualified to vote by mail, but she missed the deadline because she didn’t know in advance that her license would be denied.

    What’s more frustrating than all of these stories, though, is understanding the clear political machinations behind them. It’s simply not true that laws such as this are good-faith efforts by Republicans to prevent voter fraud, or that nobody was paying attention to the consequences for racial minorities, married women, students, the elderly and the poor when these laws were written.

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie admitted just a few weeks ago that Republican governors intend to use “voting mechanisms” to ensure the party will win the 2016 presidential election. He later followed up with a clarification.

    “You know who gets to appoint people, who gets to decide in part what the rules are,” he said. “I’d much rather have Republican governors counting those votes when we run in 2016 as Republicans than I would have Democrats.”

    In 2012, the House Republican leader in Pennsylvania, Mike Turzai, said publicly that his state’s voter ID law would “allow [Gov. Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

    And in Texas, Greg Abbott, who is on the gubernatorial ballot today, argued as Texas attorney general that “[the Texas Legislature’s] redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.”

    That should terrify you. That should anger you.

    What right do state officials have to say that certain groups of people aren’t entitled to contribute to the governance of their communities? My vote and your vote and my grandmother’s vote are not partisan softballs. Our elected representatives shouldn’t get to decide whether my vote should be counted; they should be competing to earn that vote.

    And if this is what they’re going to use it for, they can count on my vote going elsewhere during today’s election.

    _______________

    Ashleigh Horowitz is a creative writing freshman. Follow her on Twitter. 

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