Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The assault on voting rights continues

Well, it certainly didn't take long for a state to put forward the most restrictive voter ID law in the country following the Supreme Court's neutering of the Voting Rights Act.

Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina signed into law a bill that will require everyone who wants to vote to show a government-issued ID card before they will be allowed to pick up a ballot. No college ID's and no out-of-state licenses will be accepted. The bill also shortened early voting by a week, ended same-day registration and allows any registered voter to challenge the eligibility of anyone to vote.

According to Mr. McCrory, the aim of the legislation is to prevent voter fraud in North Carolina. However, when asked by Jeremy Hobson, co-host of the NPR show "Here & Now" the governor couldn't point to any specific instance of voter fraud.

Why? Because there is no evidence of wide-spread voter fraud in the United States. The purpose of the legislation isn't to combat non-existent fraud; the purpose of the legislation is to make it harder for the poor, the elderly and minorities to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

If the purpose is to combat voter fraud, why reduce the time for early voting? What does one have to do with the other, Governor McCrory? Early voting makes it easier for people to cast their ballots - and, in a country where the average turnout for an election is generally quite pathetic, anything that makes it easier for folks to get out and vote should be considered a good thing.

And why eliminate same-day voter registration? Could it possibly be that forcing voters to register 30 days or more before an election reduces the number of potential voters? And who are the voters who take advantage of same-day registration? How about the young and the disenfranchised who feel compelled to make their voices heard?

And why allow any registered voter to challenge the eligibility of another person to vote? In most states it is up to the election judge (or whatever title is conferred upon the person administering the election in a polling station) to determine who is, and who isn't, eligible to vote. The election judge has undergone training and has been instructed in the law. Allowing voters to challenge another's right to vote is a return of the days of the KKK and Jim Crow. It is simply to intimidate the poor, the young and minority voters.

The reason North Carolina and other predominately southern states (such as Texas) have pursued these laws in because the traditional voter base that sends conservative politicians to Congress and the statehouse know that they are increasingly outnumbered by voters belonging to groups they have shunned. If you allow the poor and the young and the minority voters to cast their ballots, the days of the Right are numbered.

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