Politics Week in Review

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  • You know what they say about payback, right?

    Well, young, women and minority voters are facing the big payback as new voter ID laws around the country aim to curb access for the traditionally Democratic voters, who propelled Barack Obama into the White House in 2008, according to two studies.

    One study found that a Pennsylvania law requiring residents to have valid photo ID to vote could disenfranchise up to 1.3 million mostly black and Latino voters statewide, including an estimated one in every three in Philadelphia.

    Black and Latino voters tend to be poorer and less likely to have a driver’s license because many don’t own cars; they also are more likely to be unemployed so they don’t have government issued IDs.

    As a result, the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of black and Latino voters are more likely to be disproportionately impacted by the law.

    Further, Republicans in a dozen states where restrictive new voter registration and ID laws have been passed, claim the changes are aimed at stopping voter fraud.

    The only problem with that argument is that documented proof of such fraud found a less than 1 percent chance of that happening and when there is fraud, it doesn’t happen at the voting booth but in absentee balloting, which the bulk of these laws do not address.

    Even before the trial started in federal court challenging the Pennsylvania law, state officials admitted they had found no cases of voter fraud to support the need for the voter ID law.

    You don’t have to be hit on the head, fire hosed or forced to take a literacy test to understand that black folks’ right to vote is under attack.

    Tamara Manik-Perlman, an analyst at Azavea, a Philadelphia geospatial software firm, told the Atlanta Black Star that voters who live in the city’s most heavily African-American neighborhoods are 85 percent more likely to lack a valid ID than a voter who lives in a predominantly white area. Latinos were 108 percent more likely to lack the right ID than those in white neighborhoods.

    An analysis by the AFL-CIO similarly showed the problem areas concentrated in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the site reported.

    Still not convinced?

    The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School found one in 10 Americans lacks the government-issued photo IDs now required in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi,  South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, as well as Pennsylvania.
     
    Most of those states have Republican-controlled legislatures.

    "What this report demonstrates is the potential impact on voters and possibly some potential impact on the upcoming election," Keesha Gaskins, a co-author of the report, told Reuters. "We really are talking about a population of individuals that really could influence the outcome."

    The Brennan Center report also pointed to the difficulty in getting a state-issued ID, because many  government offices open at irregular hours or just part time, particularly in areas with high black and Latino populations.

     In Wisconsin, for example, there is a state-run ID office open only on the fifth Wednesday of every month. Only four months of the year have a fifth Wednesday.

    The report said states with such laws are required to provide free photo IDs to eligible voters who do not have one, but again, they make it difficult to obtain the identification because the costs of obtaining birth certificates and other needed documentation, as well as transportation costs to the ID office, make it difficult for financially strapped voters.

    The states with the most stringent voter ID laws provide nearly half of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency, the report said.  
    Last month, the National Urban League warned that even a small drop in black voter turnout could hurt President Obama in several key states – states that helped him win in 2008.

    Political strategists say the Republican Party has calculated that if it can shave anywhere from 5 to 10 points from Obama’s hold in each of certain voting groups – women, Latinos, African-Americans and Jews – that would be enough to supply Mitt Romney with the margin of victory in November.

    Had enough? Well consider this: five federal lawsuits were filed this year challenging a Voting Rights Act provision that bars several state and local governments from enacting new voter ID requirements that would disenfranchise minority voters.  Several states that would be affected are those with the irregular hours, making it difficult to secure a government-issued ID.

    So the Republicans think they’ve found a plan to pay us back for electing Barack Obama.  And maybe the even bigger payback is making sure black voters are so disenfranchised they’ll be afraid to come to the polls. We could well be taking the hit for 1964 and 1965 voting rights legislation, too.

    If you think your vote doesn’t count, ask yourself why the GOP is working so hard to keep you from using it.
     

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