By Isaiah Thompson-Bonilla
Journalism Guild Writer
Voting rights in 2016 will once again become a major issue among eligible voters in 16 states as laws are passed to make voting more difficult.
An interview conducted by Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, with Ari Berman, a journalist for The Nation, revealed the year 2016 will be the first time in 50 years that full protection of the Voting Rights Act won’t be available to all voters.
Goodman recounted the Supreme Court decision which eradicated important elements of the voting act, in the case Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. The ruling opened the door for some states with prior voting discriminatory issues to implement changes to their voting laws without getting consent from the federal government.
“South Carolina has a new voter ID law,” said Berman. “63,000 is the number of minority voters without IDs, who could not vote under the law.” Individuals without IDs will need to show a valid excuse as to why they do not have an ID, in order to be considered for eligibility.
Further questioning by Goodman extracted information of even more egregious practices in other states. In Texas, strict voting laws have created a huge disparity in the Black’s and Hispanic’s ability to vote.
Berman elaborated on the matter. “Six hundred thousand registered voters [in Texas] don’t have a government ID.” According to the report, having a government ID is more likely among the White population, whereas Blacks and Hispanics are two to three times less likely to have one.
“In Texas, you can vote with a gun permit, but not a student ID,” Berman added in the interview.
Goodman pressed Berman to lay out a solution to the current problem. She introduced the concepts of early voting, same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration to get a lot more people involved in the political process.
According to the interview, in many instances states are withholding information which would allow affected individuals to still have an opportunity to vote. For example, in South Carolina people are told they need one of five forms of ID to qualify for voting. In actuality, a person could still vote by casting a provisional ballot and signing an affidavit.
This type of deception can lead to frustration by potential voters, prompting these individuals to stay at home and not participate in the election process. Berman acknowledged there could be several reasons why people did not show up to vote, but concludes that “there are certainly some people that didn’t show up because of the voter ID law.”
|“63,000 is the number of
minority voters without IDs,
who could not vote under the law”|
With 16 states presently enforcing voter restrictions, the fairness of the process is being put into question.
One of the most closely contested elections in recent history happened in Florida in 2000 when only 537 votes separated George W. Bush from Al Gore. So many people in Florida were unable to vote for a number of reasons and the discrepancy in the legality of who qualified as a registered voter was contested all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Republican candidates running for president have taken their positions on the voting issue. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump believe restrictions should be put in place or left as they are.
Often during campaign season, candidates on the stump get away with saying things without validity. For example, Donald Trump in New Hampshire spoke at a rally concerning the current voting structure. “Look, you’ve got to have real security with the voting system. This voting system is out of control. You have people, in my opinion, that are voting ‘many, many’ times. They don’t want security. They don’t want cards.”
In the interview Berman said that there’s no evidence that people are voting ‘many, many’ times. While there have been issues in the past with voter impersonation, only 31 cases since 2000 have been reported with approximately a billion votes cast, he said.
In addition, there are other concerns with voting rights, alienating citizens from voting. Berman spoke directly to the disenfranchisement laws. “More than 5 million Americans can’t vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws, including one in 13 African Americans.”
The interview with Goodman addressed many of the problems associated with not having a voting bill to protect the voting public and process. Alternatively, Berman offered an example of a model that appears to be working for at least one state. Though the diverse demographic differs from larger more homogenous states, Vermont has voting laws in place to help its citizens rather than hinder them.
“Vermont has some of the best laws in the country,” Berman said. “They have same-day voter registration.”
Access to true and fair representation from local, state and national politicians is being greatly affected by voter restriction in many states of the country.
Same-day voter registration has produced a 10 percent increase in voter turnout, according to Berman. While states like Vermont and Minnesota have really good voting laws, states such as Texas, Alabama and South Carolina are heading in an opposite direction, he said.