Voter ID Laws Are Actually a Sneaky Way to Silence Women of Color


Any connoisseur of 80’s and 90’s era kids’ sports comedies knows that when the bad guys can’t win, they cheat. Cobra Kai tried it, the Urbania Cowboys tried it, and everyone The Mighty Ducks ever played tried it. Now that an increasingly nonwhite population trend has threatened the electoral clout of white people, terrified conservatives have responded to the realization that democracy is not on their side by trying to pass voter ID laws to address the imaginary problem of in-person voter fraud. But, when you cut through all the high minded talk about the CONSTITUTION and the SANCTITY OF WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT, it’s painfully obvious that what voter-ID enthusiasts really want is for women of color to shut up and let the white folk run things.

The Center for American Progress released a fascinating but depressing report yesterday that found that voter ID laws screw women of color over in two ways — by making it more difficult for them to vote, their voice in the electoral process is minimized, which means the elected officials who would actually represent their interests are losing to guys who think rape is just a penis-kiss from God. They’re getting denied at the voting booth and the people who do get elected are a bunch of jagoffs who think women are literally made out of man-ribs and legislate accordingly. It’s a double whammy of suck.

First, the report shows that women of color comprise the largest block of voters of color, and their civic engagement is increasing. Latina turnout increased 21% between 2004 and 2008, and during the last Presidential election, a larger percentage of black women than white women voted. Furthermore, behind most voter ID laws are really obvious, painfully oblivious racists who don’t think anyone else notices that the laws they’re trying to enact are specifically designed to discourage black people from voting. From the report,

An Ohio elections board member, for example, in discussing his vote against weekend voting hours, stated: “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine.”
Ohio has attempted to drastically limit both the periods for registering to vote and voting itself. Meanwhile, in South Carolina, the legislature passed a photo identification requirement, but because South Carolina has a history of racial discrimination and voter suppression based on race, a panel of judges in the District Court in Washington, D.C. was required to approve the law before it can go into effect. There was available evidence of racial animus, including an email discussion involving a South Carolina lawmaker. In the email exchange, the lawmaker affirmed a constituent’s racially charged statement that if the legislature offered potential voters money to obtain identification cards, “it would be like a swarm of bees going after a watermelon,” by replying with an “Amen.” Despite that evidence, the court approved the law for 2013.

But it’s not just Ohio and South Carolina that are attempting to keep women of color quiet; 34 states have introduced voter ID legislation, and 8 have passed them. Four will be in effect on election day. CAP estimates that between 596,000 and 959,000 women of color will lose their ability to vote on election day 2012.

But here’s the thing: in-person voting fraud — which these laws are ostensibly designed to prevent — is much, much rarer than fatal shark attacks. In-person voter fraud only happens at a frequency 2.5 times greater than the frequency of Rush Limbaugh getting married and divorced. Since 2000, only 10 incidents of in-person voter impersonation have been reported. But legislating around this imaginary problem makes things much worse for women of color; according to the report, 25% of black voters and 16% of Latino voters lack photo ID, compared with a single-digit percentage of white voters. In states like Florida and Indiana, these restrictions that prevent US citizens from voting could swing elections.

And the elections will swing — SURPRISE! — to the right. And the right sure does like to attack women when they’re out of ideas on how to fix the economy. The report details how the 61 new reproductive rights-restricting state laws passed this legislative session disproportionately affect women of color — from attempts to target South Asian women with so-called “prenatal nondiscrimination” bills to defunding Planned Parenthood in states where many women of color rely on the organization for reproductive and sexual health care. And all this loudly bellowed bluster from the Romney camp about how Obamacare will be repealed on “Day One” is a dramatically delivered middle finger flipped at uninsured women (53.2% of whom are nonwhite).

CAP’s proposed solution to this bang-your-head-against-the-desk problem of old white men trying to cheat their way back into relevance is: KNOCK IT OFF (Seriously, the report reads, in its conclusion: “Stop disenfranchising voters and stop attacking women’s reproductive rights.”). But we know that the Dick Mourdocks and Todd Akins and Darrell Issas and Trent Franks and Paul Ryans and Mitt Romneys of the world won’t stop doing what they’re doing just because a liberal think tank told them to. Women, and men who give a shit about women, need to stay angry, stay awake, and remember that all those patriotic platitudes on cheap America tchotchkes are on your side. They’s nothing less American than wanting fewer people to vote.

[Center for American Progress]

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