Voting is important. We know this. We need only stroll through campus and see the “Rock the Vote” T-shirts and posters to know this is what Eastern Michigan University would have us believe.
With a fast-approaching presidential election, the “vote” has become an assumed, if unused, political act. However, the right to do so in the first place is under siege from largely the conservative right.
The political tumult of the election is obviously unfortunate and often petty. It is doubly so because it has dominated the headlines, hiding the “latest” maneuver for political oppression: Voter ID laws.
The Huffington Post in May reported, “Voter ID laws, which requires voters to present official government identification before they cast a ballot in an election have become a hot-button issue this election cycle … Some form of photo ID laws are now on the books in at least 30 states.”
The ID laws sound legitimate. Yet sounding legitimate and being legitimate are distinctly different. That distinction is clearly demonstrated here.
Two facts delegitimize the notion of voter ID laws. First, we have no evidence of significant voter fraud, and second, the laws effectively disenfranchise minority voters.
Are there probably instances of voter fraud that occur? Sure – but rarely. And if we closely inspect the defenders of voter ID laws rationale for such laws you’ll find justifications like, “We have to retain the authenticity and legitimacy of our elections.”
Consider the matter-of-fact position of CNN in August, “The reason voter impersonation fraud is so rare is that it is an incredibly stupid and inefficient way to rig an election.”
Additionally, The New York Times in April 2007 detailed a federal panel that investigated the “problem” of voter fraud. Their results, “The Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.”
It seems what we have here is a law aimed at imaginary perpetrators for a crime that doesn’t happen.
Upon further examination, the law does have an ominous impact on minority voters. U.S. News & World Report in July reported, “Ten percent of all eligible voters and 25 percent of eligible African-American voters do not have government-issued IDs. The homeless, the homebound, returning veterans, the elderly, people of color and college students are all vulnerable to these new laws.”
The article goes on to further argue that the U.S. is not a country that requires its citizens to carry a government-issued ID.
Moreover, we have long had a system that seems to be working well, for address verification and vouchers to ensure the aims for which these laws are supposedly designed.
While it is difficult to establish intentionality, one cannot help but notice that the demographics likely to be affected by voter ID laws also make up the base of the Democratic Party.
The idea of some on the right designing these laws with the surreptitious intent of political manipulation is not beyond imagination.
“Rock the Vote?” Perhaps EMU would do better to advise its students to “Rock the Right to Vote,” while they still can, anyway.