Voting Rights Act
The Voting Rights Act, or, the 1965 Voting Rights Act (United States Code 42 U.S.C. 1973 to 1973aa-6), was vital American legislation enacted to end the Jim Crow voting system which barred African-American voters in The South from exercising their right to vote.
The legislation has had several side-effects that have remained problematic. The South had been a Democratic stronghold since the end of Reconstruction, resulting in a failure by Democratic administrations to address race laws. For example, FDR had killed the Federal Anti-Lynching Law in the 1930s because the New Deal hinged on Southern farmers (though most historians agree it couldn't have passed over united Southern opposition in Congress, for what it is worth). When Lyndon B. Johnson upset this status quo, George Wallace bolted from the party and formed a third-party candidacy based on keeping segregation in place. However, after he was shot in an assassination attempt, he refuted his prior views in a sickbed conversion, Richard Nixon was able to channel the remaining constituents into the Republican Party in 1968, promising the Silent Majority (read: whites) that he would take care of their concerns (the Southern strategy). As a result, 108 years after the Confederacy seceded due to the election of a Republican President, the South elected the most (in)famous living Republican of his era, not to mention the grandson of Abolitionist Quakers.
A modern nightmare
Although the idea of making sure that people going to vote actually have the right to do so is not in and of itself a bad idea, since the 2008 election Republicans have passed a variety of arbitrary and rather pointless "voter ID" laws that are… rather bureaucratic for a party based on the principle of small government. Furthermore, especially in the states where these laws have been passed, a driver's license is not just a card, it is a symbol of social standing and status. Mobility itself in America is based on affordability, and huge swathes of the population who statistically tend to vote for Democrats also tend to be unable to afford a car.[note 1] Furthermore, because there is no national identification card, the onus is on the voters themselves to be able to afford the travel and fees for an identification card.
One pretext for passing these laws is a moral panic over alleged voter fraud (racist dog whistle-speak for black and Hispanic people voting). Another pretext is the moral panic over illegal immigration, with immigration-restriction groups from the John Tanton network pushing voter ID laws as part of their broader agenda to force mass use of identification cards as a societal norm, and eventually a national ID card, which they view as a key issue in stopping illegal immigration.
In a word, this is a gigantic pile of bullshit that is meant to undermine the Voting Rights Act. It appears to be working: there have already been reports of poorly-executed conspiratorial plans by Republican functionaries during the 2012 election cycle, including a dim-witted disposal of voter registration documents in GOP states. And you wonder why the reality-based community doesn't take states' rights activists seriously anymore.
Voter ID laws have also recently been used to repress transgender rights. In many states, it can be rather difficult for someone to legally change the gender listed on their identification. Because of this, post-transition trans people can potentially have a hard time voting, as they can be barred entry for not having a "valid" ID.
Courts have struck down some of these laws.
However, in Continental European countries such as Germany and France - and even progressive darling Sweden - Voter ID laws have stood unchallenged. It is important to note that in these countries, all citizens are legally required to have a Photo ID, which is also a requirement for dealing with government bureaucracy, opening a bank account, etc.
- Harvard students take the 1964 Louisiana Literacy test - For the lulz.
- "I don't want everybody to vote" Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the religious right, explains why the GOP suppresses voting.
- Voter ID requirements per state
- Or they just like public transit.
- Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Voter ID Laws, ProPublica
- Voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee dropped 2012 turnout by over 100,000 votes, Washington Post
- GOP voter registration scandal widens, Salon (This genius makes George W. Bush look like James Bond.)
- Study: Voter ID Laws in 10 States May Disenfranchise Transgender Citizens, The Advocate
- The “legal headache” of the Voting Rights Act
- Voter ID proposal could disenfranchise millions, Labour warns Is the government’s plan for voter ID an attack on Labour voters?
- The right to vote in Sweden