Fifty-one years after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, Republican-controlled states in the South and across the country are still attempting to disenfranchise minority voters. The latest suppression efforts – namely, voter ID laws – have been presented under the guise of protecting against voting fraud, a problem that simply does not exist. Between 2000 and 2010, out of 649 million votes cast in general elections, there were 13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation in this country. 441 Americans were killed by lightning during that same decade.
Let's not sugarcoat this. Voter ID laws are poll taxes and literacy tests under a different name.
Texas is the latest state to grab major headlines for its efforts to deny the ballot to its estimated 600,000 residents who do not have a state-issued photo ID. Fortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit struck down the 2011 law last week.
"Ballot integrity is undoubtedly a worthy goal. But the evidence before the Legislature was that in-person voting, the only concern addressed by SB 14, yielded only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade leading up to SB 14's passage." – Justice Catharina Haynes
The state's attempted ID restrictions look especially cruel when you consider that only 49.6% of Texans voted in the 2012 general election, the fourth lowest turnout rate in the nation. And, as the Houston Chronicle's Editorial Board noted on Tuesday, ID battles distract from a perhaps more serious form of disenfranchisement: gerrymandering.
"At the federal level there's only one truly competitive race for Congress in our state - the 23rd congressional district in West Texas. The other 35 seats are essentially safe.
The way that Texas draws districts means that voters don't choose their representatives - representatives choose their voters." (whole article)
We can expect that these suppression attempts will become increasingly desperate as the white Republican majority clings to power in a state that is nearly 40% Latino and growing. When these lawmakers, who refuse to budge their political priorities to match the changing political will, are one day voted out of office, they'll quote their prized Governor Rick Perry: "Oops."