Voter ID proponents mask their true purpose

Written by Jules Strauss, Common Cause Intern on March 12, 2014

Thumbnail for the Voter Protections campaign

In state legislatures now meeting across much of the country, Republican lawmakers are in the midst of a fresh effort to restrict voting rights.

The campaign centers on bills that would require citizens to display government-approved photo identification before voting. The millions of people who lack such ID -- non-drivers, the elderly and infirm and college students prominent among them -- would be shut out of the polls.

Voter ID supporters say they're trying to prevent voter fraud, preserve American values, and deter related crimes like ballot-stuffing. But there's practically no evidence that fraud is a problem, a fact conceded even by most voter ID proponents.

In Ohio, a swing state where GOP leaders have pushed hard for new voter ID laws, Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanke wrote last week that, "Out of more than 5.5 million Ohio votes cast in November, 2012, just 135 were referred to law enforcement agencies for review." She noted that even Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has acknowledged that while voter fraud exists, 'it's not an epidemic.'

So what are the real motives here?

Voter ID laws discourage or directly block tens of thousands of predominately Democratic voters from casting ballots. College students and the elderly, people with disabilities, transgender people, and low-income people are among those most likely not to have identification that complies with these new laws.

It's no coincidence that members of these groups are disproportionately Democratic and that voter ID supporters are disproportionately Republican. And there's nothing patriotic about silencing minorities and other marginalized members of society to preserve and maintain legislative power.

This is a direct attack on every American citizen's right to vote and the core principle on which our country was founded.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Voting Rights

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