Al Sharpton: Casting a ballot is a right, not a privilege. New laws restricting that right are wrong.


As regular readers know, I write about voter suppression regularly. Nearly every day sometimes, especially now that the GOP is trying their best to disenfranchise up to 5 million voters, easily enough to throw the election to Romney.

Hence, my mantra and quick primer on Voter I.D. laws:

Here is Pennsylvania’s legal stipulation that there is no voter fraud. Voter I.D. laws are a huge issue that needs more attention.

New voter registration laws could hurt President Obama. The people suffering the worst consequences of the Voter I.D. laws are most often low income voters, the elderly, the ill who can’t leave home, young voters, minorities, and of course, anyone without transportation (or to put it another way, lean Democratic).And to those who say, “Well, there are always absentee ballots,” some states are now requiring Voter I.D. to qualify for those, too.

Access (transportation) to Voter I.D. centers is one reason so many people are unable to get a new picture I.D. Another is that it costs money, including paying for a copy of a birth certificate or other documents one might need to acquire a new I.D. Hence, Attorney General Holder’s reference to a poll tax.

Remember: Voter fraud is rarer than getting struck by lightning.

One of the people is an excellent spokesperson on this subject is Politics Nation's Rev. Al Sharpton, and for that we should be immensely grateful.

Today he had an op-ed in the L.A. Times. Please read it and share it. I'll take a chance and post a big chunk of it here, too, because some readers don't like to click over, and this is too important to skip:

...10 states now have highly restrictive photo ID laws that require citizens to produce specific types of government-issued documents to vote: Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas. [...]

And who are the voters who will be affected? As the Brennan Center reports, more than 1 in 10 eligible voters in the U.S. do not possess the kind of IDs required by those 10 states. More specifically, 1 in 4 African Americans, 1 in 6 Latinos and 1 in 5 Americans over age 65 lack the requisite ID.

Though it may be difficult for some of us to imagine, many of these people simply do not drive or cannot afford a vehicle and therefore don't possess a driver's license. And the process of obtaining a valid ID — even when the states issue them for free — can be costly to those on fixed incomes or for those who must take time off from work, lose wages and find the means to travel to a government agency. Often they must produce copies of items such as birth certificates, which not only cost money to reproduce but may take weeks to process.

If these added difficulties weren't discouraging enough, in Wisconsin, Mississippi and Alabama, fewer than half of all ID-issuing offices are open five days a week and none are open on the weekends. And many have irregular operating hours. The Brennan Center documented an office in Mississippi open only on the second Thursday of the month, and in Wisconsin, only on the fifth Wednesday (only four months in 2012 have five Wednesdays). [...]

"What's wrong with requiring voters to have an ID? After all, you need a state-issued ID to drive, to get on an airplane, to write a check. Why not to vote?"

Here's why. On a fundamental level, that argument confuses privileges with rights. No American has a constitutional right to drive, fly or pay by check. We do not have constitutionally protected rights to rent cars or to use credit cards. That some people think these activities are comparable to voting is alarming — and revealing.

Every American 18 or older has the right to vote. [...]

Why now?... The new voter suppression movement has taken off since the game-changing 2008 presidential race, when minorities and young voters turned out in record numbers. [...]

Very quickly, Republicans began doing their best to stop them from voting again.