Who are Voter ID Laws Really Affecting?

Partisan politicians are building obstacles to bar blacks and other ethnic minorities from voting. This is hardly new — historical policies like poll taxes and literacy tests were race neutral but disproportionately targeted Blacks, much like today’s anti-voter laws.

One of these laws, HB 589, enacted by North Carolina republicans last August, requires voters to provide specific state photo identification, reduces early voting and imposes other obstacles between citizens and the ballot box.

According to Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, the law would block 10,000 blacks and minorities from the polls. Grassroots opposition is mounting, and this past week, civil rights activists and community organizers have met in Winston Salem to persuade a federal judge to stop the law.

These strikes against voters of color come in the wake of last year’s ruling in Shelby v. Arizona, which struck down the Voting Rights Act’s “pre-clearance requirement,” which required precincts with a history of discrimination to submit new voting laws to the Department of Justice for review. 

For decades this law protected Americans from discriminatory practices at the ballot box. But after Shelby, states may make any changes they see fit without federal oversight.

The Court argued that decades of racial progress and what they see as a “post-racial America” demonstrate that pre-clearance was no longer needed. Last generation had the poll tax, today we have laws like HB 589, but one thing remains the same: these laws do not specify race, but disproportionately affect people of color. When considering stricter voter ID laws, we must consider whose rights are on the line.