I’ve often wondered how important the integrity of the vote is to some politicians and groups. Oh, they’ll argue that it is supremely important, but then when attempts are made to assure it, will fight the attempts tooth and nail.
The nation’s largest civil rights organization, as it likes to call itself, has petitioned the UN over what the UK’s Guardian describes as “a concerted effort to disenfranchise black and Latino voters ahead of next year’s presidential election.”
Let’s examine this “concerted effort” according to the NAACP. First the setup:
Fourteen states have passed a total of 25 measures that will unfairly restrict the right to vote, among black and Hispanic voters in particular.
The new measures are focused – not coincidentally, the association insists – in states with the fastest growing black populations (Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina) and Latino populations (South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee). The NAACP sees this as a cynical backlash to a surge in ethnic minority voting evident in 2008.
Actually they’re again trying to brand the South as “racist” by implication, but that’s another story. The particulars:
First of all, the registration of new voters is being impeded in several states by moves to block voter registration drives that have historically proved to be an important way of bringing black and Hispanic people to the poll.
No real specifics as to what that means. Perhaps it means that voter registrations have to actually be verified with some form of identification. Makes sense so dead people and illegals can’t vote. They too have been historical constituencies of the Democrats, right? So this may simply be valid attempts to ensure the integrity of the voting system.
Four states – Florida, Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia – continue to withhold the vote from anyone convicted of a criminal offence. In Florida, offenders who have completed their sentences have to wait at least five years before they can even apply to restore their right to register to vote.
Across the US, more than 5 million Americans are denied the right to vote on grounds that they were convicted of a felony, 4 million of whom have fully completed their sentence and almost half of whom are black or Hispanic.
Losing your right to vote by being convicted of a felony has been something that has been in existence for quite some time. It is hard to see that as primarily focused on “blacks and Hispanics”. It is focused on criminals. It shouldn’t have to be said, but no one makes blacks and Hispanics commit criminal offenses.
While it is certainly debatable as to whether or not criminals should retain or recover their right to vote, the premise that this is being done to disenfranchise minority voters seems to be nonsense.
Other measures have reduced the ease of early voting, a convenience that is disproportionately heavily used by African-Americans. Even more importantly, 34 states have introduced a requirement that voters carry photo ID cards on the day of the election itself.
Studies have showed that the proportion of voters who do not have access to valid photo ID cards is much higher among older African-Americans because they were not given birth certificates in the days of segregation. Students and young voters also often lack identification and are thus in danger of being stripped of their right to vote.
I stood in line at the grocery store yesterday as an elderly black woman wrote a check for her groceries. The cashier asked to see a photo ID. She quickly produced it. This happens daily on a routine basis. Anyone who doesn’t have a photo ID also doesn’t have a checking account which most people would find hard to believe. We are routinely asked while engaged in commerce for photo IDs. To cash a check, to buy alcohol (at a store, bar or restaurant), etc. Additionally, most states provide free state photo IDs to those who don’t drive.
So this argument that it is unreasonable to ask for such an ID when the entire population obviously doesn’t think it is unreasonable for such requests by businesses and other government entities to ask for them is also nonsense.
Note also the complaint about “early voting”. It hasn’t been ended, nor has anyone been barred from using it. It just isn’t available for the long periods it once was previously. That may be driven by budget constraints. The complaint seems baseless and more of a complaint about convenience than disenfranchisement.
In Texas, a law has been passed that prevents students from voting on the basis of their college ID cards, while allowing anyone to cast their ballot if they can show a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
Can anyone spot the obvious problem here? College ID cards are issued by schools who make no effort to determine citizenship or eligibility to vote. Concealed carry permits are issued by the state after such a determination has been made. The law makes perfect sense.
Examination of the particulars then raise questions about the efficacy of the charges. It also makes you wonder why they’re even being brought. But without such a campaign, the NAACP really doesn’t have much of a reason for its existence does it? A bit like NATO needing a war to justify its continued existence.
Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP’s president, said the moves amounted to "a massive attempt at state-sponsored voter suppression." He added that the association will be urging the UN "to look at what is a co-ordinated campaign to disenfranchise persons of colour."
Remember that point when you read hyperbole such as this from Benjamin Jealous. It is a publicity stunt. A means of trying to justify the association’s continued existence. But it is certainly not a campaign focused on the integrity of the voting system. If it were, the NAACP, instead of fighting everything, would be assisting persons of color to comply with the laws … something pretty easy to do in this day and time.