It’s hard enough to get an American to vote once
There’s no better case for Australia’s compulsory voting system than the current wave of voter suppression laws sweeping the United States.
In the late 1800s, after African Americans were given the vote, Southern states made it a requirement that voters pass a literacy test and pay a fee to vote. It took the Supreme Court until 1966 to rule these methods of voter suppression unconstitutional.
This year, in this election, Americans in 32 of 50 states will be required to present identification in order to vote. They will be required to show photo ID in 17 states, including the crucial swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Hampshire.
More than 21 million US citizens do not have photo ID. In 2000, the election hinged on under 600 votes in Florida.
Those without photo ID are predominantly lower income, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, young, or elderly. Demographically, they’re much more likely to vote Democrat. It’s no surprise then that it was the Republicans who pushed voter identification laws through legislatures in every state except for one.
Republicans argue that requiring photo ID to vote prevents voter fraud by stopping people from claiming they’re someone they are not. It’s undoubtably true. But the argument still doesn’t stack up.
Over the past five years the Federal Department of Justice has uncovered only 120 cases of voter fraud. The five years before that, while President Bush was doggedly pursuing the issue, they couldn’t find a single case of impersonation.
It seems it’s hard enough to get an American to vote once, let alone twice.
Photo identification is not as prevalent in the United States as it is in other countries. While State Courts have given varying judgments on the new laws, a case is yet to make it to the Supreme Court. And while voting IDs themselves must be free, the process for obtaining them can be costly and burdensome.
The elderly may be required to send and pay for a copy of their birth certificate from interstate. The young may have to drag their parents in person to a state government department – not so easy in rural Texas or Pennsylvania. This is all when almost half of Americans don’t find it worth the hassle to vote anyway.
The swing states where Photo ID is now required account for a whopping 69 of the 270 Electoral College votes required to win the Presidency. Bill Clinton spoke at length a private event recently about his concern that if this election is close, the suppressant effect of these laws could swing the outcome.
Some Republicans hope so.
Mike Turzai, the House Majority Leader in the swing-state of Pennsylvania listed as his achievements, “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania. Done.”
A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal showed Mitt Romney’s support among African Americans was exactly 0%.
I wonder why.
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