BY JULIANNE MALVEAUX
Attorney Barbara Arnwine, leader of the D.C.-based Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is on a mission. She wants to make sure that every citizen has the right to vote. On its face, it seems like a retro mission, since the right to vote has long been established. But one look at her Map of Shame, a map she shared at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s 40th Anniversary and annual conference, and the mission becomes quite urgent.
States are passing laws that require people to have a government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Arnwine’s Map of Shame shows 8 states – Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina — that require a government-issued photo ID for voting. Several other require proof of citizenship, which may mean the birth certificate President Obama was challenged with producing. Sounds suspiciously close to a passbook to me. Often when these laws are enforced, the government-issued photo ID must include a “current” address, which poses barriers to those who have moved. Americans have a mobility rate of 14 percent, and African Americans have a mobility rate of 18 percent. In the middle of a move, many do not return to the Department of Motor Vehicles to change the address on their driver’s license.
Government-issued photo ID does not include a Social Security card, but is usually restricted to a driver’s license or a passport. Eleven percent of all Americans, and 25 percent of African Americans, do not have driver’s licenses. In Georgia, 36 percent of those over 75 do not have a driver’s license. What about passports? The process of obtaining a passport often takes weeks, and costs upwards of $100. Requiring a government-issued photo ID may be a burden for some Americans. Yet that is precisely the intent that legislators that are assaulting voting rights have. When elections are close, it is in their interest to exclude young people, seniors, and African Americans. These voter ID laws do exactly that. Additionally, in some high-unemployment states, those who owe child support cannot get a driver’s license. Talk about a double whammy. You may need a car to get to work or look for work to pay child support, but without a car you can’t look for work or get to work.
The Map of Shame shows that more than 20 states are considering the repressive laws that have been passed in the eight states that have frontally attacked voting rights, along with the two, Ohio and Florida, that require proof of citizenship. Is it any coincidence that these are “swing states?” How much does this have to do with the upcoming 2012 election, where the stakes are high and the