Voting restrictions: a non-issue issue
Every now and again it’s important to take a step back, drop our political leanings, and call a spade a spade.
In the midst of the recount for the historically close 2000 presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and eventual victor George W. Bush, the Texas governor conceded the inconsequential seven electoral votes of Oregon, then asked the vice president to extend the same courtesy and concede Florida’s 27 votes, which would have (and ultimately did) clinch the presidency for Bush. Democrats and Republicans alike acknowledged the ridiculousness of this request.
In March, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski — since fired — aggressively grabbed the arm of Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, pulling her away from the candidate as she peppered him with questions. Notwithstanding this action, Lewandowski’s disproven denials that it occurred, and the physical harm he caused — Fields posted photos on Twitter of the bruises on her arm — having him charged with assault seemed extreme.
Today we find ourselves in a similar position. As we move closer to Election Day, politicians are somehow asserting, with growing vigor, that voter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. Proponents have endorsed requiring photo identification at the polls and prohibiting early voting — neither of which sounds particularly restrictive until you think about it. Once you do, you realize that it is chiefly Republican lawmakers who have instituted these measures, which appear exclusively to discourage African-Americans and Hispanics from voting, groups that, in recent years, have largely voted Democratic. After all, these minorities are less likely than whites to possess photo IDs, and without early voting, African-American churches can’t take advantage of Souls to the Polls, the practice of busing congregants to voting sites on the Sunday before elections.
Don’t just take our word for it. In July a federal appeals court struck down voter ID laws in North Carolina, writing in its decision that the state’s laws “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Moreover, voter fraud simply does not exist. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, an expert in election administration and redistricting, wrote in The Washington Post in 2014 that he had exhaustively tracked allegations of voter fraud since 2000, including primary, general, special, and municipal elections, and found 31 separate incidents. Considering that there were more than a billion ballots cast in the general and primary elections alone between 2000 and the 2014 (remember that this number does not include the 2015-16 election season), one has to wonder how lawmakers have lost a minute of sleep over this “problem.”
Put aside for now the legalities, underlying racism, and the damage to our civil rights. Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, the conclusion seems obvious that these laws are intended for one reason only: to suppress votes.