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Obama, Holder, and Voter ID

On Monday, January 16, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Protecting the right to vote, ensuring meaningful access, and combating discrimination must be viewed not only as a legal issue but as a moral imperative. And ensuring that every eligible citizen has the right to vote must become our common cause.” He claims that voter identification is discriminatory because it would make voting harder for minorities, who lack sufficient forms of government-approved ID more often than whites do. Holder is repeating the protests of groups like the NAACP and the George Soros-funded Brennan Center, which claim that voter ID laws hurt minorities. The NAACP even petitioned the United Nations this month for a human-rights ruling on what NAACP president Benjamin Jealous called a “tidal wave of assaults on the right to vote.” He meant in America, not Cuba or North Korea. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued to challenge a voter ID law in Wisconsin. Lawsuits offered by liberals claim that voter ID laws endanger the rights of hundreds of thousands, but lawsuits in Indiana and Georgia were dismissed because plaintiffs couldn’t produce a single eligible voter who’d been turned away due to the ID requirement. Turnout has risen in states that have passed the voter ID laws, with no adverse impact on minorities.

The only evidence I could find to substantiate Holder’s (and Jealous’) claim that voter ID laws hurt minorities is provided here. In a paper entitled, “VOTER ID REQUIREMENTS AND THE DISENFRANCHISEMENTS OF LATINO, BLACK AND ASIAN VOTERS” by Matt A. Barreto, Stephen A. Nuño, and Gabriel R. Sanchez, presented at the 2007 American Political Science Association Annual Conference, they state, “Derived from economics, Downs’ theory is based upon the ideal that ‘every rational man decides whether to vote just as he makes all other decisions: if the returns outweigh the costs, he votes; if not, he abstains (Downs 1957: 60).’ The registration process is one of the largest sources of cost to rational minded voters. Therefore, the more permissive registration laws are, the lower the time, energy, and informational costs of voting (Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980). Attempts to analyze the impact of restrictive laws on voter registration have consistently concluded that turnout rates are higher when costs associated with registration are low (Campbell et al. 1960; Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980; Katosh and Traugott 1982; Jackson 1993; Blank 1974; Kim, Perocik and Enokson 1975; Bauer 1990).” The authors continue, “This perspective suggests that voting may be less costly for those with greater levels of political resources such as money, time, English language abilities and education. Therefore, any increases in costs associated with voting should have the greatest impact on those with the fewest political resources – racial and ethnic minorities, the less educated, immigrants, and the less affluent to name a few.”  [emphasis mine]

43 U.S.C. § 1973 (The Voting Rights Act of 1965 [VRA]), states,

  • (a) No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in section 1973b (f)(2) of this title, as provided in subsection (b) of this section.  [again, emphasis mine]
  • (b) A violation of subsection (a) of this section is established if, based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election in the State or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by members of a class of citizens protected by subsection (a) of this section in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. The extent to which members of a protected class have been elected to office in the State or political subdivision is one circumstance which may be considered: Provided, That nothing in this section establishes a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the population.  [again, emphasis mine]

  • (a) mentions section 1973b (f)(2). So here it is: (f) Congressional findings of voting discrimination against language minorities; prohibition of English-only elections; other remedial measures. (2) No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote because he is a member of a language minority group.  [again, emphasis mine]

Not a word in there about money, time, and education, factors cited as disenfranchisements of latino, black, and asian voters. In fact, 43 U.S.C. § 1973 states specifically “on account of race or color.” So while latino, black, and asian voters may, indeed, be disenfranchised, the causes are NOT covered under the VRA, except in the case of language. But this language disenfranchisement factor has NEVER been mentioned by Holder! His entire argument has focused on voter id.

Holder’s remarks are notable because they come as the Department of Justice (DOJ) is reviewing voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina for “preclearance” under the VRA. So what Holder is doing has been deemed legal by the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court has also found voter IDs to be legal! The states’ plans require voters to present photo ID like a driver’s license or passport to vote, a measure endorsed by the Commission on Federal Election Reform headed by President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker in 2005 to protect the integrity of the ballot. Holder says the Civil Rights Division, headed by Thomas Perez, will review the policies and impartially “apply the law.” If true, Mr. Perez’s job should be easy: In 2005, Justice approved a nearly identical law in Georgia. In 2008’s Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (in Indiana), the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that an Indiana law requiring photo ID at the ballot box was constitutional. Then-Justice John Paul Stevens, wrote for the majority that Indiana’s law “is unquestionably relevant to the State’s interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.” Indiana offered free voter ID cards to all citizens, so the inconvenience of picking up an ID at the Department of Motor Vehicles wasn’t an undue burden and was reasonably balanced by the state’s interest in reducing fraud.

In a Reuters article, we learn that the South Carolina [voter ID] law required voters to show a state-issued photo identification card to cast a ballot in an election. DOJ blocked the law after ruling it could hinder the right to vote of tens of thousands of people. It noted that just more than a third of the state’s minorities who are registered voters did not have a driver’s license. But both Holder and Reuters are being disingenuous. A driver’s license isn’t the only acceptable form of identification. State ID cards – issued free of charge to those who can’t pay for them – are also accepted, as are passports, military ID, and a voter registration card with photo.

Holder and the DOJ raise all of this voter ID furor in the name of “free access to vote.” But in 2009, Holder and the DOJ dropped a voter intimidation case against the Black Panther Party, in which members stood outside a polling place brandishing nightsticks and threatening voters.

But that’s just my opinion.

Access to other articles like this one can be found at RWNO, my personal web site.

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