A new study by the Brenan Center for Justice reveals that new voter registration laws in twelve states will disenfranchise over five million voters, a disproportionate share of them ethnic and racial minorities.
The initiatives are overwhelmingly led by Republican Party state legislatures seeking to the suppress the Democratic vote in 2012. The range of changes in voter registration remove same day registration, make it harder for voter registration drives to register voters, require Photo ID’s, narrow the time window when a voter may register and eliminate early voting in some places.
WHAT DID THEY FIGHT FOR ANYWAY?
The worst aspect of these new laws is not partisan though. Disenfranchising millions of American citizens: taking their precious right to vote away from them makes a mockery of our democracy and cheapens the lives given as sacrifice in the wars fought to preserve that democracy since the inception of the nation.
The gains made for civil rights in the 1950’s and 1960’s and beyond are all under threat and the racial and ethnic slant of the new laws raises the most ugly questions about how those promoting such laws see those people.
The justification for these Voter ID Laws, and ending same-day registration and narrowing the registration window or making community organization voter registration drives more difficult is to cut voter fraud.
But the actual level of voter fraud is amazingly almost non-existent. The level of disenfranchisement of minorities both racial and ethnic has always been significantly greater. This is a cynical attempt to ensure Republican success in the 2012 election as the very people most affected vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
Even in progressive Wisconsin, where a citizen could register to vote right at the polling place on election day no longer can do that. They will have to have a Voter ID that is a photo ID. The best place to obtain that are at the Department of Transportation offices which have been closed in high minority areas.
What this nation ought to have is same-day registration, voting on Sundays when most of us are able to get to the polls, and facilitated absentee voting. The goal should be to get well over ninety percent of our adult citizens to be able to participate in this most elemental act of a representative democracy. Instead, the nation is seeking to limit those who vote as much as possible.
Americans concerned about real democracy should ask why? And why not make it more difficult for people the richer they are to register to vote and to obtain the necessary authorization? Why target the very people who most need to have an equalizer with the wealthy and privileged at least one day every two years: their right to cast a vote.
ONE MAN ONE VOTE is the surest way to ensure that a more egalitarian society that is just is at least possible and on the political horizon in any election.
Disenfranchise millions of voters who are minorities ethnically, racially, and most often who are economically compromised is not only shameful in a nation that boasts about its democracy before the world but it tears at the very fabric of our social contract: that measure of consent we give to our government to legitimize its right to govern us and which obligates the citizen to abide by the rule of law.
There is still time for community organizations to launch unprecedented voter registration drives without regard to the political loyalties of the voters enfranchised. The 2012 election ought to be at least in part over throwing out the people who inaugurated these changes.
In Wisconsin, you guessed it, that is Governor Scott Walker and the Fitgerald legislative fiefdom in the State capitol in Madison. It’s not a partisan suggestion here but one that unabashedly supports democracy over a plutocratic government bought and paid for by the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers, Koch Industries, and the Republican Party hierarchy in this state.
Democracy or a new age of the disenfranchised poor, people of color, and ethnic minorities while the white, the rich and affluent, enjoy full political legitimacy is injurious to the very government our founders put in place so long ago. What would a Jefferson, Madison, or an Abraham Lincoln say about this? It is our political equivalent of what would Jesus do? You know the answer.
Let’s get going. Commit yourself to helping in a voter registration effort this year, and taking at least two other citizens in addition to yourself to get that photo ID and get registered under the new laws. Then let’s find those people who did this and vote for their opponents.