This is Why The Voter ID Debate is Not Going Away

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Is Texas still racist enough to warrant hand-holding by the federal government? That's the essence of where the voter ID debate stands now and where it's headed. Though it may seem like a straightforward question, and one that many politicos have reduced to a "yes" or "no" sound bite, the issue is actually extremely difficult to bottom-line. And because of that, it's not going away.

Before we get to the meat of our talk with Richard Pildes, an NYU law professor who has studied and written extensively about voting rights, here's a quick(ish) catch-up:

Governor Rick Perry signed a law in May requiring Texas voters to present a government-issued photo ID to vote. Activists on both sides of the issue bared their teeth and lunged. The Department of Justice hesitated, taking some time to decide whether the law disenfranchised minorities, and ultimately decided that "the state has failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the proposed law will not have a retrogressive effect," and refused to allow the law.

Then the debate took a turn -- why does the DOJ have such strict control over a state law that other states have already implemented without a problem? And should the feds have such control?

The Dallas Morning News addressed some of these questions on Sunday. The debate is rooted in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which implemented federal oversight for certain states with a history of outright racism. The constitutionality of the measure was hardly a question then because the justification was so strong.

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the federal government must approve measures like the voter ID law for the singled-out states. While other states can require ID to vote, no questions asked, the fed had plenty of questions for Texas that lead to their answer: no.

Texas, like South Carolina and Arizona, sued the fed, challenging the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.

Pildes, the NYU law professor who was quoted briefly in the Morning News article, explained to Unfair Park why this issue is more complex than many politicians would lead people to believe, and how the Voting Rights Act (or "unique federal receivership," as he calls it), has been molded from its original purpose to fit the current situation.

"You had a very simple biracial dynamic [when the Voting Rights Act was put in place]," Pildes says. "Blacks were excluded; whites were doing the excluding, at least in the Southern states."

Now, however, the justification of the act has been expanded, as the DOJ and others opposed to the Texas law contend that minority voters, especially Hispanic voters, are adversely impacted by the Texas Voter ID law.

"Are [these issues in Texas] significantly different from the problems that may exist in Boston or Chicago or in various other parts of the country?" Pildes asks. "It's a different kind of problem than the problem that existed in 1965 when people were being excluded from the polls," he says. "Back in 1965 the problem involved total exclusion from participation."

It's become an issue of social and economic disadvantage, more so than outright racism. And the question becomes whether this is still unique to the states singled out under the Voting Rights Act, and therefore whether the act remains constitutional as it is applied today.

"It may be that some parts of the country ... that there are good reasons that those areas ought to remain covered," Pildes says, adding that it might also be the case that other areas of the country should be covered. Racism no longer falls so clearly along state -- and legal -- lines. So the question becomes: How much of a disproportionate effect on minorities must a law have for Congress to rightfully adopt or maintain a measure like the Voting Rights Act?

"The legal system has only begun to touch the surface of those issues so far," Pildes says. And the Texas, Arizona, and South Carolina lawsuits are forcing these issues to finally be hashed out.


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80 comments
Lexyluzloveme2
Lexyluzloveme2

Hey Kids or Teens how ever you want to be called My Name Is LEXY i have a social studies project due and all i want to know is that do you agree or disagree with on letting them pass a law of making texas citizens show an Photo ID in order to vote.

J the B
J the B

It's not going away for one reason and one reason only...the perception of political advantage one way or the other. The purity of the process now takes a back seat to partisan political concerns. And we keep voting for the rascals.

RTGolden
RTGolden

The government places all sorts of restrictions and barriers upon our constitutional rights, all of the time.

1. The right to Free Speech - subject to proper time, place, and manner2. The right to Keep and Bear Arms - Open carry isn't legal everywhere and CHL you must pay for a certification and have proper ID, magazine restrictions, etc.3. Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation - eminent domain.4. To confront the witnesses against him - red light cameras (how do you put one of those on the stand?)5. Rights retained by the people - Smoking in restaurants (If I own the restaurant, why can't I smoke in it?  If people don't like it, they can eat somewhere else.  Not a smoker, just a pet peeve of mine, unnecessary intrusion of government into the private sector).6. Abolition of Poll Tax - In some states you must present a state ID (a purchased item) in order to vote, constituting a 'tax' for your vote.7. Free exercise of religion - can't give 'christmas' cards in school, effectively denying the practice of most organized religions, spreading the word is usually a spiritual injunction.

One can argue for and against each of these 'barriers' to the free exercise of our Constitutional rights.  This isn't the forum to argue each and every one.  But an argument against Voter ID laws as unconstitutional because the ID must be free isn't going to wash.  I believe the SC has even ruled as such.

The bigger question is will this law restrict otherwise lawfully allowed voters from participation in the election process?  This is the only area in which I stand against the current voter ID requirements.  We need to encourage people to vote, not discourage them.

pak152
pak152

the voter id law is about ensuring the integrity and trustworthiness of the voting process nothing more nothing less

RTGolden
RTGolden

can we pass a law to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of the candidates we vote for?

Ket354
Ket354

We should probably pass a law to do the same thing for gravity. It has shown similar signs of its integrity and trustworthiness being in question. (Look at some of that NASA footage if you don't think so!)

mybolognahasathirdname
mybolognahasathirdname

Once again. Let me reiterate that to own a gun, you DO NOT have to have i.d.(dad passing gun down to son, family heirloom,etc), but to purchase one from a dealer, to obtain a CHL...Yes, you do need i.d. for these, since those are privileges, not rights. The Constitution is your friend, learn it....it could come in handy, one day!

RTGolden
RTGolden

... the right to keep and BEAR arms shall not be infringed.  Yet you must pay have proper ID, and pay to get certified for concealed carry.  Open carry is not legal in all places.  Thus you must have paid for the privilege of exercising your RIGHT to bear arms, as well as owning them.

Mike
Mike

This law was a set up to overturn Section 5. People are arguing over the details of the law. The Court already said the law was constitutional. They will not want to hear the same old discussion. What is on the table is Section 5. How can we have a law allowed in state A , but not state B. Conservatives for years have been looking for for a way to get it unvarnished nd uncluttered before the Court. AG Holder gave it to them on a silver platter. He is a political hack that used a short term gain, looking good to Hispanics, to undermine an advantage held by liberals for decades.

The actual law is not going to make a bit of difference. Getting rid of Section 5 is the real impact. Thanks General Holder.

DaTruth
DaTruth

First of all, not a Democrat vs Republican issue. Asked the Republicans who tried to cast votes recently and were denied because their ID wasn't an "approved" ID.

An 86 year old WWII veteran couldn't vote in Ohio because his government issued picture ID from the VA was not an "approved" ID. It didn't have an address on it.

http://thinkprogress.org/justi...

Or the 96 year old woman who couldn't vote in TN because she didn't have an original copy of her marriage license. She tried to get her ID but was denied because she didn't have that document.

http://thinkprogress.org/justi...

So effectively what the Republicans are doing and attempting not only to deny people their right to vote, but maybe just pissing them off enough so that they don't even bother.

Now the only way to vote is by absentee ballot, claiming either you are old or you'll be out of town. No ID required to vote that way. See the irony in that as well? Someone you will never see sitting at home can send in his/her ballot by mail without showing an ID and without even proving they were the one who cast it.

Hell in this fine state, you don't even need to have an ID to register to vote to begin with. Just mail in the app and you've got a card.

So these Voter ID laws are absurd at best.

Ket354
Ket354

"So effectively what the Republicans are doing and attempting not only to deny people their right to vote, but maybe just pissing them off enough so that they don't even bother."

This is the really important impact of this law: make it more of a hassle so we can go from low voter turnout to even lower voter turnout.

If we have a problem in our current system it is from lack of participation, not illegal participation. This law will exacerbate the lack of participation while not doing anything about the very small amount of illegal participation.

True voter reform would be a system that made it easier for every elligible citizen in the state to vote.

Mavdog
Mavdog

OK folks, step back for a second and take a look at the issue.

The concept of a Voter ID statute is not unconstitutional, and the DofJ is NOT claiming such.

The "unconstitutional" aspect is the affect on the population in our particular state. As the DofJ pointed out in factual statistics, something like 40% of Texas counties do not have a DPS office located in them, therefore the voters in those counties faced an unfair burden in their desire to satisfy the requirement of obtaining an ID as mandated by the statute. Having access to the means of traveling a great distance to obtain an ID should not be a requirement to exercise one's right to vote.

If the state can provide its citizens with access to the IDs the issue could easily pass the test. But the state hasn't, has not shown its intent to do such, and therefore the statute doesn't pass the smell test.

Edsbiker
Edsbiker

Seems like the answer is to have Voter IDs supplied at the polls.  I mean if you can make it to the polls, just bring your birth cert, or other official doc to make getting your ID happen right then and there - and free, Just once.   OR, gee just bring your birth cert or other form of ID and vote, because at that point you already have met the requirement.

I really would like someone who is complaining about the laws to say why it is ok to NOT prove who you are prior to voting. AND when they mention money wasted on new legislation, what about the money wasted fighting it?  FAR more costly then passing a law.

Albert
Albert

" something like 40% of Texas counties do not have a DPS office located in them.."

That's why the population of these counties are not required to have a driver's license, the offices are too far away.

pleasedon'tshockmymonkey
pleasedon'tshockmymonkey

Driving is a privilege which has inherent monetary cost for membership. Voting is a right , with no monetary cost for membership. Understand? Good.

Edsbiker
Edsbiker

You make the point right there. We want to ensure that everyone IS a citizen. Nothing wrong with that is there?

RTGolden
RTGolden

It cost me money to get the ID required to purchase a firearm, a Constitutional Right, I might add.

Mavdog
Mavdog

really, are you posting this with a straight face? you're giggling when you write it, right?

What is baffling is how anybody, be they advocating conservative or left wing politics, could be supporting any barriers that prevent a citizen from voting.

A conservative who speaks of liberty and constitutional rights is a hypocrite if they support measures which put obstacles in the way of their fellow citizen voting.

So, are you a hypocrite or are you true to those ideals of liberty and exercising one's constitutional rights?

Albert
Albert

But I have a right to earn a living, and that right is impeded by the law requiring a driver's license which I can't get because the DOS is not "readily available"

simplemindedfool
simplemindedfool

how simple can it get......the doj just wants it easier for voter fraud just like its happening all over the country, simple as that.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Very interesting discussion..I think the all falls on the side of these states (ran by republicans) trying to block people they consider "undesirable" from voting(Hispanics, Women, Olds, ect..)...Its a classic power move from the GOP/Dixiecrat playbook, its nothing new, they used to make black folks take an intelligence test to allow them to vote..

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

I'd like to make EVERYBODY take an intelligence test before allowing them to vote.  5-10 simple questions that would pop up on the screen before the ballots.  If you miss 2, you get sent home as too fucking stupid to vote.

Mervis
Mervis

Please share those questions with us.

RTGolden
RTGolden

The purpose of FEMA is to kill people who survive natural disasters through the use of toxic chemicals in temporary housing units and inefficient delivery of needed supplies.

Good enough to vote?

Mervis
Mervis

Well, if the tire goes around say, 400 times in a minute and I can run a mile in 7 minutes then I would cut 80 in half and say 30 minutes. How did I do?

Ket354
Ket354

Try these:

1. Who shot JFK?2. Where was President Obama born?3. Have Americans ever set foot on the moon?4. What is the purpose of FEMA?5. If you are driving 80mph how long does it take you to travel 80 miles?

Now, who gets to make the key?

Heywood U. Buzzoff
Heywood U. Buzzoff

There are so many activities -- from renting a car to getting a job with the Federal Government -- that require two forms of identification.  Why are those not racist? You may claim that those activities are optional or not necessary to everyday life.  If you can not sign up for electrical service with TXU, fly on an airliner, or buy cigarettes but still insist that you have a right not to prove who you are then I hope that you do not have too far to walk from your utility free house to the local poling place.

Problem already solved
Problem already solved

"still insist that you have a right not to prove who you are"

Are you one of those people who seriously thinks Mickey Mouse is showing up to the polling location on election day? Take a good look at your voter registration card and take note of what information exists on the card (better yet, look up the registration process in the first place).

The notion that you can show up to your polling location and expect to vote without any form of verification is a completely wrong and invalid argument.

rightsvs.privilege
rightsvs.privilege

Those things you listed are privileges(even having electricity) and not rights(you know the ones written in the Constitution). I'll give you an example: Barbara is a 21yr old caucasian homeless woman. She doesn't have any i.d., so she has trouble buying cigarettes(she still looks too young), she can't get on an airplane(she hasn't the money for a ticket and no i.d.), she can't get electrical service(she has no home or job)....but, she can vote. Why can she vote? Because, it's protected by the U.S. Constitution, that's why! 

RTGolden
RTGolden

Bigotry based on ideology is just as repugnant as bigotry based on race, gender, or creed.

RTGolden
RTGolden

And now, we're getting to the REASON a voter ID must be free.  I was wondering when anyone was going to mention poll taxes.

There are still holes in this argument, however, as it will become necessary, at some point , to enact some sort of voter ID system.  It is tricky, and hopefully, people smarter than I will be tasked with figuring it out.

RTGolden
RTGolden

And... she can buy a firearm.  Why can she buy a firearm? Because, it's protected by the Constitution... oh, wait.  No, she can't buy a firearm, because she has to have an ID.

thefncrow
thefncrow

Because you're required to drive to the polls, right?  You can't walk, or bike, or rollerskate, or take the bus, or take the train, or carpool, or arrive in a pedicab, because if you show up via some method of conveyance other than personal automobile, you get inside and they tell you "I'm sorry, you can't vote today because you didn't drive a car here".

Please.

Albert
Albert

Then the cost of gas is a poll tax.

thefncrow
thefncrow

If you don't make ID cards readily available for free, then the requirement for ID in order to vote becomes a de facto poll tax, and poll taxes are blatantly unconstitutional.

Albert
Albert

But requiring an ID is not against the Constitution.

Wondering
Wondering

So agree!

Don't people have to provide identification to get a Lone Star card??  That sure is part of many people's lives...

Parvomon
Parvomon

I think Republicans are prejudiced against vote fraud.

Ket354
Ket354

I think Republicans are using the fear of (non-existent) voter fraud as a cover for their prejudice.

Before my government spends money on a problem I typically prefer if they have to show that the problem actually exists? you know traffic studies before building roads, demographic studies before buidling schools. What actual voter fraud is this law intended to fix?

RTGolden
RTGolden

Legal precedent is not on your side on this one.  The Second Amendment guarantees my right to own a firearm, and I exercise that right.  However, in order to purchase a firearm from a retailer, I have to produce a valid ID, and go through a cursory background check.  The government does not provide my ID for free, thus blowing a hole in your argument. 

For the record, I am entirely supportive of both ID and background checks for firearms purchases, and not so much supportive of the Voter ID law in TX.  I think a Voter ID system will be needed at some point, but I think the implementation needs to be better thought out.  The argument, however, that the ID must be free and readily available doesn't hold up to Constitutional scrutiny.  If that were so, there would have to be a free and readily available method of identification for our Second Amendment right as well.

Ket354
Ket354

No, you wouldn't. Nonetheless, even one dollar is too much if it doesn't actually do something.

Albert
Albert

I'd like to see the actual costs incurred by the states that require voter ID.

I'd Bet the opponents of the law who use this excuse don't.

thefncrow
thefncrow

Because voting is a right granted by citizenship, if you implement a law that requires a person have an item in order to exercise that right, you have to make available that item for free.

This is why Voter ID laws are unconstitutional if they don't include a provision by which free IDs are made readily available to people who would now need such an ID in order to exercise their constitutional rights.  Texas' program passes part of that, being that it allows for free IDs to be issued on such grounds, but the "readily available" part is something that the law doesn't meet.

Ket354
Ket354

Implementing any law has costs. Do you really not see the costs of this one or are you just baiting so that you can pick apart the details instead of looking at the whole picture?

At the very least more IDs will be issued and that is not a revunue nuetral system.

Now I Get It!
Now I Get It!

 What money is your government spending on this problem by requiring an ID?

MBM
MBM

I don't get it either.  It's uncostitutional to have something prove with an ID that they are who they say they are?  If you want to vote, have an ID, simple as that.  How is that racist?

Problem already solved
Problem already solved

"If you want to vote, have an ID, simple as that."

Pretty sure that was already taken care of by the current voting rules. Further legislation has been nothing more than an attempt at intimidation rather than solving an existing (more like non-existant) issue.

Albert
Albert

"How is that racist?"

Because racialists say so.

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