In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This act is a farce and it failed to deal with faulty voting machine technology and had no regulatory controls. HAVA did have voter ID requirements, but they were common documents such as a bank statement, paycheck, utility bill or some other governmental document. But the act allowed the states to be more strict as long as it did not violate other federal laws. Indiana passed its voter ID act as a result of the HAVA legislation and they require a photo ID issued by the United States or Indiana government.
In the recent Supreme Court case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008), the court upheld the Indiana law that requires a photo ID to be able to vote. This was touted as a major step in ending voter fraud and restoring trust to the voting process. Give me a break! Voter fraud wasn’t even an issue in the last two elections. The voting process was the issue.
A survey conducted by New York University School of Law concluded that 25 percent of African-American citizens don’t have a photo ID as compared to 8 percent of white citizens of voting age. That amounts to about 5.5 million African-American adult citizens without a photo ID and a total of about 21 million citizens all together. What this law is really about is voter suppression. Years ago, the South used a poll tax to suppress black votes. You had to pay to vote. The poll tax prohibited the majority of black people from voting. The photo ID requirement has the same effect.
Georgia has adopted a similar law requiring a photo ID to vote. Former President Jimmy Carter called this requirement a “disgrace to democracy” and that it was “highly discriminatory, and in my experience, directly designed to deprive older people, African-Americans and poor people of a right to vote.”
Now you might think, “What is the problem with getting a photo ID?” There are several. You will need to get your birth certificate, which costs money and takes time. You will then have to pay again for some type of state ID. So we are back to a poll tax. But remember, there is no need for a photo ID because this type of voter fraud isn’t a problem and rarely would affect the outcome of an election.
Before Indiana adopted its photo ID law the Secretary of State told the state legislature that “I cannot recall one documented case of voter fraud during my tenure as Secretary of State or Assistant Secretary of State that specifically related to the impersonation of a registered voter at voting polls.” She described the justification for the bill as a “pretext.”
There is no need for voters to have a photo ID. We got along fine without them for more than 100 years. The only reason to adopt them now would be to keep certain groups of people from going to the polls. This is a step backward toward the disenfranchisement of black voters, the poor and the elderly. Hopefully, such a law will never be approved in Nevada.
Jeff Blanck is an attorney in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.