When voting becomes a privilege

In Opinion

There has got to be something about the 2012 election that has lawmakers scared out of their poor little minds.

Some covert, sinister force must have infiltrated the once grand ol’ proud United States; a force which seeks to destroy this great nation of ours through our own democratic methods.

At least that would be the impression given by the number of states that are scrambling to change their current voting ID laws to a stricter policy.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, six states since the beginning of 2011 have attempted to have their voting ID laws converted to the “strict photo ID” law, which stipulates all voters must show a photo ID in order to vote.

California has no voter ID law to speak of, but about half of the other states in the union have at least some kind of policy regarding identification of voters.

As long as such laws are applied to everyone in one of our 50 given states, there is nothing too devious about them.

Where things start to become a tad unscrupulous is when one realizes that only two states, Georgia and Indiana, had these “strict photo ID” laws prior to 2011 and suddenly six more came out of the woodwork; six states that are seeking to place more restrictions on basic human rights.

And they are rights. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its extensions into 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006, ensure that.

If jumping from two states to eight in the span of a year did not prompt at least some kind of investigation from the Justice Department, one would have to wonder what would.

Which brings us to Texas where, indeed, the Justice Department has made it clear they are aware of and not happy about the motivations behind that state’s recent passing of strict photo ID laws for voters, going as far to deny pre-clearance for the law as the 2012 general election looms.

Reportedly, the implications are that Texas lawmakers seek to exclude much of the state’s Latino contingent who presumably lack state-issued identification.

Again, regardless of how indirect, this would be an attempt to undermine guaranteed voters rights.

Texas appears to be making this assertion to help avoid voter fraud.

Let us give them the benefit of the doubt and assume there have been some extreme discrepancies that Texas legislature has detected in voting patterns.

According to the Census Bureau results for that very election, fewer than 40 percent of Texas citizens reported voting.

With that kind of turnout, one would think these lawmakers would be busing any person who even appears to be of the legal voting age or American citizenship to the polls.

Let us not mince words for Texas, as with any state that borders our neighbors to the south (that’s Mexico, for those not near a map), illegal immigration is a constant and prevalent concern among lawmakers.

While it is not an unreasonable request that we reserve our voting rights to American citizenry, this bit of overreaction does not do anyone favors.

It is mainly because the “strict photo ID” laws affect far more than just Latinos.

No, I will stifle my indignation that Latinos would inevitably suffer large amounts of racial profiling at the polls if these laws go into effect.

However, state-appointed photo identification is something that we, as college-going Californians, take for granted.

Photo identification is indeed an additional expense.

It requires a measure of privilege to attain.

Requiring such “strict ID” laws would then turn the right to vote into just that — a privilege.

It would take it away from the less fortunate and the downtrodden that do not have the means of acquiring photo identification.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t those the people who deserve the right to vote the most?

So in the future, let us please discuss matters of voter identification policies for what they truly are: an attempt to limit those who can vote by socioeconomic means.

That is, unless, Texas and the other states scrambling to change voter ID laws truly know something that we in the Golden State do not.

In that case, please let Americans at large have this knowledge as well so we may combat this invisible enemy alongside you.

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