Dumbfounded by all the recent scrouge of voter ID laws? Finally, there may be qualitative evidence that there indeed lies a method, albeit dastardly, to all the madness.
In a University of Delaware Center for Political Communication study, researchers found support for such laws, especially where would-be voters who tend to lean Democratic are concerned, are linked to one’s innate feelings toward African-Americans.
In creating a metric they termed “racial resentment,” surveyors’ peppered respondents with a flood of specific, open-ended questions, one of which broadly inflects: "I resent any special considerations that African-Americans receive because it’s unfair to other Americans."
Based on data collected from that exercise, researchers determined the more resentment one typically expresses toward blacks, the more likely they were to be in support of the draconian, psychologically-degrading type laws. In addition, those who revealed themselves as Republicans or conservatives posted the highest score on the variable of racial resentment and those who self-identified themselves as falling in either of those two categories also overwhelmingly favored the laws regardless of where they fell on the actual resentment scale.
Currently 32 states have now adopted some form of the covenants, the overall crux of which require voters to show some form of government identification prior to being able to tally their vote in the upcoming 2012 reelection effort of President Barack Obama.
Since gaining control over an additional 20 state governments in 2010, Republicans have literally made adopting such measures a critical plank in their national platform, the rationale apparently being that blacks, Latinos and other low-income potential voters, all of whom typically tend to vote Democratic, are most likely to be adversely compromised. To date, at least 11 states have been successful in actually turning such legislation into law.
"These findings suggest that Americans' attitudes about race play an important role in driving their views on voter ID laws," said Paul Brewer, one of the study’s supervising researchers. “It comes as no surprise that Republicans support these laws more than Democrats,” added David Wilson, co-head researcher of the project.
Likewise not surprising, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law finds that beyond the overriding challenge of simply securing valid ID, minorities also figure to be further handcuffed by a lack of overlap between all the offices entrusted with handling and maintaining all the proper paperwork.
Despite varying laws requiring states to provide free voter IDs to all eligible residents in need of them, the act of actually obtaining documentation remains problematic for most victims based on structural barriers ranging from lack of transportation, restrictive access to proper facilities, cost of necessary documentation and other unforeseen forms of bureaucratic red tape. In the end, Brennan Center estimates that as many as 500,000 people in at least ten different states will face serious hurdles to casting a vote this fall.
And yet, all objective evidence concludes that the act of electoral fraud is actually exceedingly rare. Among other findings, the same Brennan study also found that many of the purported instances of such acts have long been proven false, conflated with other forms of election misconduct generally only raised as tools to suit a particular policy agenda.
Just last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed suit against the state of Texas, charging Gov. Rick Perry, himself a one-time GOP presidential candidate, was essentially instituting a Jim Crow like poll-tax on minority and low-income voters in unnecessarily convoluting their right to suffrage.
"We will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right," Holder recently told a cheering NAACP convention audience. "We call those poll taxes. I don't know what will happen as this case moves forward, but I can assure you that the Justice Department's efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive."
Holder noted that under Texas law a concealed handgun license would serve as acceptable ID to vote, but a student ID would not. He went on to say that while only 8 percent of white people do not have government-issued photo IDs in Texas, while about 25 percent of all blacks there lack such identification.
Given all the back-and-forth rhetoric, perhaps Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Bradford Woods) best spoke truth to what-would be power last month when he was unknowingly captured on tape asserting to a wildly applauding crowd: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
“Who votes in America has always been controversial, so much so that the U.S. Constitution has been amended a number of times to protect voting eligibility and rights,” said seemingly signaling that time may indeed be upon us once more.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.