Voter ID Law: Not Just a Texas Problem
Are you registered to vote? Do you have the identification necessary to do so? Hopefully you answered yes to both of those questions. But odds are pretty good that you don’t have everything you need. Especially if you live in one of the 9 states
that now require you to show photo identification at the voting booth. Texas is one of those states. Or at least it’s trying to become one. In case you haven’t heard, a panel of three federal judges will be ruling on the legality of the Texas voter ID law some time in the coming weeks. That’s going to have a huge impact on the approximately 1.4 million people at risk of disenfranchisement if it passes. But it’s
going to be just as important for the rest of the US population as well.
So to clarify the proposed Texas law would require a person to show a valid, government issued photo ID at the voting booth in order to vote. And as I said earlier, that negatively affects a lot of people in Texas, most of whom are minorities
. It’s for that reason that the Justice Department struck down the law last year. Texas responded by suing the Justice Department to hopefully receive judicial permission toenforce the law. The judges’ opinion will send a strong message to other states considering passing restrictive voter laws and set a powerful precedent for the future.You might be wondering why Texas would need a law that will actually make voting more difficult. After all, the United States has shockingly low election turnout
numbers as it is. So what could be the motivation to essentially discourage people from voting? Texas lawmakers claim it’s because they want to reduce voting fraud in the state. Sounds great right? Of course we want to keep elections fair and accurate. I’d be all for the law too based on that reasoning. But only if voter fraud was ACTUALLY an issue. And based on evidence
provided by the Justice Department I think we can safely say it’s not. As one article even put it “UFO sightings
are more common than voter fraud.” Given that information, you have to ask what really going on? What’s the REAL motivation for the photo ID law? The motivation that Texas legislators will never admit to.
It’s an attempt to curb minority voting. In the 10 years before passing the law, Texas’s population increased by about 4 million people 90% of which were Hispanic. Studies have shown that minorities are statistically more likely to have a low income and live a long way from government locations, making it much more difficult to get or renew an ID. Of course anyone is still allowed to get one as long as he or she has the necessary paperwork. But even without any added barriers, we all know how irritating and difficult it can be to get through all that red tape. People don’t want to have to struggle with government bureaucracy just to be allowed to vote. And quite frankly they shouldn’t have to.
Yes, stricter voting laws will be problematic and irritating in Texas. But if the law is approved it will be damaging and potentially dangerous for the rest of the country. The Texas legislature clearly had ulterior motives beyond curbing voter fraud with the new law. They may argue otherwise now and the Justice Department may not be able to prove it. But it’s pretty clear to me and most people familiar with the case that voter fraud is not an issue in Texas. So what kind of message will that send to the rest of the country if the law is passed? Will it mean that it’s okay to place more restrictive laws on minorities? That some people have a greater right to vote? That we’re returning to the era of the poll tax?
Maybe my interpretations of the potential ramifications of this law are too extreme. In fact, I hope they are. But this law has the potential to set an important precedent for voting and minority rights. If it, and other laws like it, are approved now, then that lays the groundwork for even more questionable laws later. We can’t allow that to happen. There’s not really anything we can do now to affect the approval or not (fingers crossed) of the Texas voter ID law. But we can do our best to keep the government from creating similar laws. Protest, write letters to your congressperson, educate your community about the issues. But most importantly, remember to vote in November. Exercise that right that so many people fight for and ensure we have a government we can trust.
Elisabeth Arnold is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in political science with a focus in American Politics and with a minor in Chinese. In her coursework, she has specialized in social movements, policy analysis, and legal studies. Elisabeth is a Program and Research Intern with the SISGI Group focused on US race relations and incarceration, women’s rights, and US immigration policy.