Thursday, July 21, 2011

A New Poll Tax for a New Jim Crow


As messy as our political democracy is; as uneven, unfair and unjust as our system can be, with the outlandish redistricting, outrageous campaign financing tricks and schemes, and ostentatious spending on lobbying, the fact that the right to vote is continually under attack is particularly egregious.

According to Henrie M. Treadwell, Ph.D., director, Community Voices and Senior Social Scientist at Morehouse School of Medicine, 5.3 million Americans cannot vote because of various state restrictions on ex-felons, over 1 million in the state of Florida alone.

But that is not enough . . .

Since January, six states have passed new laws that require photo IDs to vote: Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee, and three more (Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire) are considering proposals. This is yet another solution in search of a problem, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) says, “Instead of protecting the integrity of our voting system, many of these laws effectively disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. Voting is integral to the strength of our democracy, and we should be working to increase voting participation, not keeping valid voters from having their voices heard.”

It is estimated that 11% of eligible voters, or over 16 million eligible, have no government-issued IDs. And, as you can imagine, these are primarily seniors, racial minorities, low-income voters and students. While some would argue they are trying to protect the integrity of our voting system, the facts do not support them. According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NY University School of Law:

Indeed, evidence from the microscopically scrutinized 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually reveals just the opposite: though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often.

Using this data, to prevent 14 people from voting illegally (using the larger estimate of 0.0009%), we are going to prevent 16,000,000 legitimate citizens from voting. Like the Poll Taxes of the old Jim Crow era, these new restrictive voting measures are for the sole purpose of limiting voting rights of specific groups!

Senator Bennet has written a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the U.S. Department of Justice to review these highly restrictive photo identification requirements, and under the Voting Rights Act, the DOJ has significant authority to review these laws before they are implemented. We all need to put pressure on our representatives in Congress to press Attorney General Holder to review these restrictive new laws and vigorously enforce the right to vote for all citizens.

Please write or call your Senators and Congressman or Congresswoman to ask that they too, write our Attorney General and demand reviews of photo ID voting requirements in all states.

To contact your Representative Click Here

To contact your Senator Click Here

Daryle Brown
TUCC Justice Watch Team