By Greg Morin
There is nothing quite like a Supreme Court decision to add fuel to the fire of politicized hyperbole. One example: the recent US Supreme Court decision (http://goo.gl/xOyFp) regarding the Voting Rights Act set aside just a single section (Section 4) as no longer applicable as written – but the “sky is falling” remarks of those opposing the decision would have us believe the entire bill was voided AND that from now on the KKK would be in charge of voter registration. “Return to Jim Crow!” – “Rampant disenfranchisement!” Give me a break. All the court did was say that perhaps after 50 YEARS, just perhaps, there have been some changes in the hearts and minds of the citizenry in those states it was originally targeted at. To argue, as opponents are, that racism is just as prevalent today as it was 50 years ago is to willfully ignore not only all the gains minorities have made in the last 50 years but likewise the fact that we’ve added two new generations of non-racists since that time. Why do you think “gay rights” are more widely accepted today? Changing attitudes? Hardly. It’s just demographics. The prejudices of the old die with them. Is racism wiped out? No, of course not. But to suggest that there has been ZERO improvement is an equally absurd assertion.
If one truly believes in the anti-discriminatory role of the VRA then one should have been concerned that Section 4 focused solely on historical regions of discrimination while turning a blind eye elsewhere. Not only does it use stale data, it uses stale methods. To the extent racism does exist, it is no longer overt, it has grown subtle. The methods used to root it out must change so that it can be identified. The rescission of Section 4 now provides Congress the opportunity to establish new criteria better suited to rooting out actual voter discrimination rather than imagined discrimination. If the disease is evolving then one’s treatment method must evolve with it.
“Oh but you’re wrong, as soon as this passed Texas moved to reintroduce a voter ID law!” I’m sorry; I have never understood this knee-jerk response that Voter ID = Discrimination. How is it that merely requesting proof that one actually has the right to vote can be construed as nothing other than a blatant attempt at discrimination? Is it not possible, just perhaps, that a border state, such as Texas, which possesses a large portion of non-citizen immigrants, would want to ensure that non-citizen immigrants are not voting (since in most cases all you need is a pulse to get registered to vote)? The most commonly requested ID is a driver’s license, but for some reason this is decried as creating an unreasonable hurdle for most minorities. Really, so the vast majority of minorities do not drive? To suggest that voter ID laws disproportionately harm minorities is to imply that driver’s license regulations disproportionately bar minorities from driving. If that is the case then it seems there should be more outrage over this horrible discrimination keeping our roadways nearly minority free.
Do voter ID laws create an impediment to voting? Sure they do… in the exact same way that the fact that the polling place is not in my living room creates an impediment to my voting. I have to expend effort in getting in my car and driving to the polling place. But it is minimal effort. In the same way, being requested to show some sort of ID before one may vote is not an insurmountable obstacle. It might take some minimal effort but it is doable. It’s not like you have to prove you can run a marathon before you can vote. If you can’t pass the tiny hurdle of obtaining the requested ID then apparently voting is just not all that important to you. So, please stop with the crocodile tears about how “voter ID” disenfranchises voters. If you are truly concerned with voter discrimination then use this opportunity the Supreme Court has handed the country and encourage Congress to fix Section 4 of the VRA so that it is relevant to the world we live in today, not the one we lived in 50 years ago.
Greg Morin is a member of the Libertarian party and CEO of Seachem Laboratories located in Madison. Constructive comments are welcomed to this paper or at gregmorin.com