Voter ID isn't conservatives' only strategy to thwart minority voters. Just as bad? Laws disenfranchising ex-felons
-By Erik Nielson
August 17, 2012- Earlier this week, Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson, a Republican, upheld Pennsylvania’s new law requiring voters to show a valid photo ID. He dismissed the plaintiff’s claim that the law will effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of Pennsylvania voters, with a disproportionate impact on minorities, who are far less likely to have access to government identification. The law is now headed to the state Supreme Court.
The Pennsylvania ID law is the latest in a spate of similar laws across the country; since 2010, 11 states have passed laws that make it more difficult to vote. Republicans, who have led the charge, claim (without smirking) that they are preserving the integrity of the election system and heading off voter fraud, even though study after study reveals that voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. (It’s about as likely to happen as being struck by lightning.) Critics counter that these strict ID laws are thinly veiled attempts to keep society’s disadvantaged, particularly minorities, from voting at all in order to give Republicans an edge at the polls. Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania House majority leader, basically admitted it. With a candor most Republicans have the sense to use only behind closed doors, he listed the party’s legislative achievements at a Republican State Committee meeting, including the new voting restrictions: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
Turzai’s statement was revealing but far from surprising. Indeed, while voter ID laws have been the latest and most high-profile prong in the attack on voting rights, they are in fact part of a much broader effort to disenfranchise minority voters. Nowhere is this clearer than in state laws that prohibit convicted felons from voting, in some cases for life.