A little over a year into Barack Obama’s presidency, top GOP officials were discussing voter suppression tactics and black disenfranchisement, as we know from one high ranking party member who took issue with the ‘strategy.’
Two perenially crucial swing states, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, have enacted more stringent voter ID laws this summer in anticipation of the fall election, while similar bills are pending in North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia (all swing states). In PA, these laws disproportionately affect low income urban communities of color.
What’s the justification? As the Supreme Court argued in its 2008 ruling upholding the Indiana measure (one of the nation’s first such voter ID laws):
The application of the statute to the vast majority of Indiana voters is amply justified by the valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.
Across the country, especially in states like Texas and Alabama, state ID centers are relatively scarce. A lack of adequate transportation to get citizens to centers to register is an added difficulty.
In their recently released study on the 10 states with the most restrictive voter registration laws, titled “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification”, the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice explained that in cities like Philadelphia, a major northeastern city with solid public transportation, possessing a driver’s license (one of the most common forms of state ID) isn’t necessary for a good portion of the population. But PA currently has a Republican-controlled legislature, making it ripe for restrictive legislation.
The Brennan study found that over 280,000 registered Pennsylvania voters will have to obtain new ID between now and November, including some who are forced to do so because of spelling errors in the PennDOT database. As one of the study’s authors noted:
I just think that’s a staggering number. Even if it’s half of 280,000, that’s an incredible number. Even if it’s a quarter, it’s a huge number… If it does turn out that tens of thousands of voters in Philadelphia need to do this over the next two months, the city will have a tremendous time accommodating them all. And the law has already created widespread confusion, even among voter advocates who aren’t sure if they should be devoting their time now to fighting the legislation or educating voters about it.
So even if the law does get overturned (a federal judge is expected to rule on the appeal this month), it could still significantly diminish turnout. Yikes.