Voter ID laws a form of voter suppression?

In the midst of the Betty Brown idiocy, we neglected to comment on the voter ID law at issue.   Several states currently have requirements that voters must show photo identification; Texas is considering such a law.  Unfortunately, these types of laws typically adversely affect the poor, people of color, people with disabilities and the elderly.  Some estimates suggest that the number of eligible voters without acceptable identification is as high as 12 percent.

Recently I took two elderly people of color to get state identification.  State identification is increasingly difficult to obtain and the burden of proof is rather high.  Both individuals attempted to use the same documents to obtain the ID cards.

One individual was permitted to use an expired passport.  The other was told that this was not acceptable.  The passports had identical issue dates.  The differences between the two individuals?  One is male, the other female.  One has an “Anglo” first name and speaks English.  The other has an “ethnic” name and speaks limited English.  I’m sure you can guess which individual wasn’t allowed to use the expired passport.

We were eventually successful at obtaining ID for both parties, but it required that additional documents be presented.

But realistically, not everybody has somebody who is willing and able to go through their documents and determine what might be useful.  Not everybody has somebody who is willing and able to pick them up and accompany them to get their identification.

Obtaining documentation can be quite costly.  Naturalization is itself an expensive process; a copy of the naturalization certificate is currently $380.  Birth certificates differ from state to state, with some states charging $30 and up.   These documents also take time to obtain.

And this is why voter ID laws are more of a burden to people of color, poor people, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Voter suppression has been a problem in the Asian American community.  The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has been documenting cases in which Asian American voters were required to produce ID before voting.  This was despite the fact that many states do not yet require ID.

Part of the problem with having a voter ID law in place is that it apparently increases challenges by poll workers to people who are legitimately entitled to vote.  As a person of color, I am increasingly aware of a higher burden of proof that is placed upon me.

My state does not have a voter ID requirement, but here is how my recent experience at the polls went down:

Me: Hi, I came to vote. My last name is Resistance, spelled R-E-S-I …

Poll worker: R-E-S-I?

Me: Yes.

Poll worker (flips through voter registration sheets): I don’t see it.

Me (reading upside down): The second letter was “E.” You’re in the G’s.

Poll worker (flipping forwards into the H’s): I still don’t see it.

Me: You have to back up. Go to the beginning of the section. I’m usually the first name listed.

The poll worker proceeded to flip back one page at a time, examining each page as she did so, until she got to the beginning of the section.

Me (pointing): That’s it.

Poll worker: This is you? [Mangling name.] That’s a name?

Me: Yes, that’s me.

Poll worker: And you live where?

Me: 100 Main Street, just like it’s listed there.

Poll worker: 100 Main Street? Anytown, State?

Me: Yes, that’s right.

Poll worker: Sign here. (I sign, she makes a big show of comparing the signatures side-by-side.) Hmm … I guess that matches the signature on record. This is you?

I’d imagine that I might have more difficulty if I changed my name to “Brown.”

But in any event, what was up with that poll worker?  I really had the impression that she didn’t intend to “find” my registration.  Good thing I can read so well upside down.  The poll worker said he couldn’t “find” my registration on Nov. 4 as well.

So if I face challenges in voting solely because somebody does not want to find my name, what will happen when voter ID laws go into effect?  Will I be challenged because the name listed on the voter roll is not the same as the name listed on my ID?  Will my passport be found sufficient?  What other types of ID will I be required to provide?

And where are the examples of massive voter fraud that necessitate these types of requirements?  Research has suggested that they are extremely rare.  Yet we risk voter suppression in huge numbers.


3 thoughts on “Voter ID laws a form of voter suppression?

  1. In my state (CA) it is a simple matter to be set up for vote-by-mail. Could utilizing that could improve the situation somewhat?

    Requiring some kind of verification seems like a good idea to me. But I’d also be for making it easier for anyone with potential problems.

  2. Voter ID laws seem to make sense in principle, but not in practice. They really must be accompanied by additional reforms to get past the nonsense you mention in your experiences helping others obtain ID and getting into the booth yourself.
    I don’t know the full best answer, but “checking” of legality of a voter should be done at registration time, which would allow time to clear up issues before affecting actual voting.

  3. I was interested in the ID process. In the past, I’ve attested to the identity of individuals who lack other documentation. But here I was told that the only people who could attest would be the individual’s father or mother. Which was obviously impossible in this case.

    Overall studies find that most people think providing ID is a good thing. Thus voter ID laws tend to pass. It sounds like such a simple thing–just present your ID. But I didn’t realize all the complications until recently.

    My experiences at the polls are curious. What is the reason for the poll worker being so difficult? Is it simply racism?

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