Alabama Proves Voter ID Laws Are Racist
Alabama Proves Voter ID Laws Are Racist – Political Moll
Before gutting the Voting Rights Act, Chief Justice John Roberts asked if “the citizens of the South are more racist than the citizens of the North?” It didn’t take that long for him to get his answer.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which required certain states with a history of racial discrimination to obtain preclearance before implementing any changes that affected voting. The Roberts court claimed that “things have changed dramatically” since the law was written and that Congress could write new rules based on current conditions. The former slave states wasted no time in passing new voting restrictions which had been difficult for them to get approved in the last 50 years.
The next year, Alabama was finally able to implement a law requiring photo ID’s to vote.Then this week, Alabama announced it would stop issuing drivers licenses at 31 satellite DMV offices due to budget cuts. Aside from the burden of making people have to drive to another county to get a driver’s license, this presents a hardship for those wanting the most common form of identification used at the polls. Worst of all, this affects two-thirds of counties in the “black belt” region, including every county where 75% of the registered voters are nonwhite! The state tried to assure skeptics that voters could still obtain special Voter ID cards through the Board of Registrars offices or through a traveling mobile ID van. Regardless of whether a different office can handle the shift in volume being displaced, this seems like another unnecessary barrier which the state is presenting to people simply to meet the state’s own imposed requirements. Proponents of voter ID laws have always argued that these laws are not a burden because identity cards are easily obtainable and (aside from time off from work and transportation costs) theoretically free, but closing offices and relocating services seems to send the opposite message. If a state makes something a requirement to exercise a constitutional right, then that’s something the state should never be able to cut from its budget. After all, they had to have known that requiring more people to have ID cards would cost more.
Alabama was, until recently, under scrutiny for its known history of suppressing black votes. That this change has a disproportionate effect on the black community seems to be more than mere coincidence. After all, if Alabama were genuinely concerned about its shameful reputation, one would think they would want to avoid even the appearance of racial disparity. Again, even assuming the voter ID issue can be resolved elsewhere, the difficulties in just obtaining a driver’s license may be insurmountable. You not only have to know somebody who has a car and a license, but who is also able to drive you to another county, to DMV offices absorbing traffic from other counties. People who don’t have cars are less likely to know people who do, that’s not likely to improve under these conditions. And the state has decided that this is acceptable in predominately African American counties, but not in predominately white counties. Out of touch white conservatives often cannot seem to believe that there are millions of citizens in the U.S. without driver’s licenses or other ID’s that meet tough voter identity requirements, but it’s now evident they’re just privileged to live in areas where that’s not a concern. They’re certainly never the ones offering to drive any of the affected people to the DMV.
Giving the benefit of the doubt if this is just coincidental, can it be judged the same as a deliberate policy? As I’ve written before, conservatives are constantly struggling to revise their arguments to sound less bigoted once those reasons become unpopular. For instance, segregation was invented specifically to disadvantage people of color. But Jim Crow’s injustices were too obvious for decent people to overlook, so segregationists invented “separate but equal” to make it more palatable to those who weren’t overtly racist but might still support such a system if it had the illusion of fairness. Practically any racially disparate systems in America today can be traced back to the nation’s original sin of racism, from poverty and unemployment to criminal justice and prison populations. The next generation of conservatives may not be as prejudiced, but perpetuating a system of racial inequality is still racist. If conservatives want to stop being seen as racists, then they need to stop promoting policies that yield the exact same result. Especially when there’s really no good reason.
Proponents of voter ID laws want people to think that their motives are to reduce voter fraud, not to suppress votes. This is questionable because voter fraud is statistically an imaginary problem. Tea Party extremists divorced from facts and reality go so far as to allege that President Obama was only elected because of widespread fraud, when in reality cases of actual voter fraud are rare and have no effect on election results. Impersonation is simply an ineffective way to try to change the outcome of an election, the tried and true method is voter suppression. America already has low voter turnout, so it’s hard to argue that making it harder to vote is making the process any better.
A reasonable person, evaluating non-existent voter fraud with the knowledge that millions of eligible voters lack the identification demanded by these laws, would not put the burden on the voters to have to obtain a new form of ID just to exercise their constitutional right in the first place. Even a less rational person still obsessing over the minuscule fraud could concede it would be necessary to bring society up to compliance before implementing a law that could disenfranchise far more legitimate votes than it would prevent fraudulent ones. That is, if voter suppression wasn’t the real intention all along.