New voter registration law creates ‘poll tax’ for people
The recent trend of Republican-backed measures that call for reduced costs and defending election integrity threaten to restrict many poorer, Democratic-voting citizens.
An example would be the Texas law requiring registered voters to present an official photo ID in order to vote. The law, which has been in judicial limbo since its approval in 2011, was struck down in a recent court ruling, which Texas Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, a Republican, appealed.
According to The New York Times, while the federal appeals court hasn’t made an immediate decision yet, it is allowing the voter identification requirement to remain in effect for the upcoming election to avoid confusion from last-minute changes. The full consequences of this allowance are yet to be seen.
Computer science junior Minnah Prufer said she is worried that the law will leave potential voters disenfranchised and unable to influence their government.
“Not everyone has an ID,” Prufer said. “So maybe some people who want to vote (and) who want to make a difference, (but) don’t have that ID are blocked to that access.”
By requiring voters to pay for identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID or a passport, this law is essentially a poll tax — the costs would be most felt by the poor and minorities, further reducing the low voter turnout among those demographics.
A report by the Government Accountability Office found that two states that had enacted voter identification requirements — Kansas and Tennessee — experienced a reduced amount of registered voters showing up at the polls, especially among young people and African-Americans.
Recent measures to limit early voting might similarly reduce voter turnout. The days on which early voting is available have been cut back in several states including North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri.
By alleviating frustration from long lines and creating more voting opportunities, especially for those who may not be able to take time off work or school to vote on election day, early voting has generally led to higher voter turnout among all parties. In recent years, as in President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election, Democrat-led campaign efforts have made increasing use of early voting days to mobilize Hispanics, African-Americans and young people to vote.
Republican legislators have proposed these voting restrictions in response to the threat of increased votes to the opposite party, while claiming concerns over the much-hyped problem of voter fraud.
Brennan Center for Justice called the issue a “myth” and released a report that examined recent cases of alleged voter fraud, finding that the cases were often unintentional mistakes made by voters or election administrators. The report found that direct voter impersonation is rare.
The election system already has a safeguard in place against this in the form of voter registration. Those wishing to register to vote must show proof of residence in the form of a valid state ID or current utility bill, bank statement or other official piece of mail that shows the individual’s name and address as well as requiring a driver’s license number or social security number on the form itself.
Allegations of widespread voter fraud are simply unfounded and sensationalized, and they do not justify marginalizing the poor and minorities in the election process for party benefit. Petroleum engineering freshman Jose Ramirez said he thinks this just contributes to a system where not everyone has fair and equal access to exercise their right to vote.
“Not everyone has equal access, but they should,” Ramirez said. ” I guess you have to go to where the minorities are, since they’re the ones that pretty much people say don’t have access for the most part.”
Ramirez said the registration process is indicative of this disparity.
“We got some (registration forms) right here (on campus),” Ramirez said. “But they don’t go to Whataburger (and) places like that and say ‘register to vote here’ and make it easy for the people.”
These restrictions of eligible voters’ access and opportunities to vote amount to voter suppression, which destroys the very basis of our government. The idea of democracy that this country’s people have fought for again and again means that everyone should have an equal say in the way that the country is run. Everyone.
Opinion columnist Eileen Holley is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected].