Voter ID is the new Jim Crow

New laws in dozens of states could cost Obama votes

Around noon on a windy fall Sunday, the motorcade began forming. Dozens of African-Americans, ages five to 85, poured from the three-story New Covenant Baptist Church and into a coughing 20-year-old bus, a cramped church van, and their cars.

The caravan snaked down Rio Grande Avenue, turned onto Kaley Street, and passed beat-up buildings and old houses downtown. Ten minutes later, it stopped at the county election supervisor's office, where 150 church members filed inside to cast their ballots, all for Barack Obama.

"It was like a crusade," remembers Randolph Bracy, a charismatic, athletic 67-year-old minister. "There was great pride. We were going to vote for the first African-American president."

That was "Souls to the Polls" 2008 in Orlando. It can't happen this year.

It's illegal.

In a brazen attempt to steal this fall's election, Florida's Republican lawmakers have outlawed voting on Sunday, an African-American tradition. Indeed, across the United States, from Montana to Maine and Texas to Tennessee, 41 states have recently passed or introduced laws to restrict voter registration and early voting, and generally limit suffrage.

It's the greatest show of racially fueled political chicanery since turn-of-the-century laws banned scores of African-Americans from casting ballots. More than five million voters — largely minority — could be kept from the polls, according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice.

"When Jim Crow was passed, [segregationists] said because of this plan, the darkie will be eliminated as a factor in elections in five years," says Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP's national president and CEO. "We beat that. But now these state governments are doing the same thing, disenfranchising entire blocks of black and Hispanic voters."

For decades, Southern states barred African-Americans from voting through white supremacist tricks such as literacy tests. That practice mostly ended in 1965, after America watched cops gassing and clubbing voting-rights demonstrators marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The law, said then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, was "a turning point in man's unending search for freedom."

In the years that followed, there were more attempts to cheat minorities at the polls. One was a law in many states that blocked felons from voting and made it difficult to get reinstated. Largely because of zero tolerance for drug crimes, this measure affected one in twelve black men.

A new scam started in Arizona in 2004, when voters approved a law to require not only an ID to cast a ballot but also proof of citizenship to register. The measure has been plodding through the courts ever since, and the citizenship provision was recently ditched. But one California federal judge who heard the case on appeal, Harry Pregerson, noted that "intimidation keeps Latino voters away from the polls."

In 2006, Missouri required voters to show a state or federal ID at the polls. It sounded logical. But supporters failed to emphasize that a quarter of blacks and almost as many Latinos lack this documentation. "The absurdity of these rules was pretty clear," says Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. "A Supreme Court judge said he was old and had let his license expire. Could he vote? And we had a member of Congress who couldn't use his congressional ID to vote."

The Missouri Supreme Court threw out that measure, but two other states — Indiana and Georgia — passed their own ID requirements, which the U.S. Supreme Court has since rubber-stamped.

These earlier attacks pale in comparison to last year's blitzkrieg, when Republicans — who had taken control of 57 state House and Senate chambers in 2010 — began to contemplate this fall's presidential election. They had seen minority voters turn out en masse to vote for Obama, and were determined to turn the tide.

In just the past 18 months, 13 states have passed laws that require voters to show ID. In several of those locales, the governor vetoed the bills, but most of the others will likely take effect before this fall's election.

In Texas, which is under federal scrutiny because of past attempts to dupe minorities, the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the measure. Twenty percent of that state's voters are Latino — and are far more likely to lack photo IDs, the feds found. The law, says Camila Gallardo, national spokesperson for the Latino rights organization La Raza, was "an affront to everyone. They are attacking the core of our democracy, which is open participation."

Gallardo was born in Santa Clara, California, to a Cuban-American family. She points out that her grandmother, who emigrated from the island long ago, never needed a driver's license or bothered with a passport, but has been allowed to vote in that state because she is a citizen. California is one of the few states that have stayed clear of the great anti-minority backlash.

On the other side of the nation, however, Florida has moved to the top of the class when it comes to discrimination. Federal courts are considering the Republican leadership's attempts to not only outlaw Sunday voting but also severely limit voter registration.

The laws being challenged, for instance, require anyone who helps voters sign up with the state to submit all registration documents within 48 hours. Last week, a federal judge in Tallahassee blocked some parts of the law, but let others — like the prohibition on Sunday voting — stand. To date, the registration requirements have proven so difficult to meet those requirements that even groups such as the Boy Scouts of America have given up on registering voters this year.

Among the victims of the Florida law: Jill Cicciarelli, a New Smyrna Beach high school teacher who last year tried to register several of her students. She had been out on maternity leave, ran afoul of the new law, and was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines. "I just wanted the kids to be participating in our democracy," she says.

More significantly, these laws have had a direct impact on minorities. The number of Latinos registered to vote in Florida, for instance, has fallen by 10 percent since 2008. (Nationally, there are two million fewer minority voters now than in 2008.) Florida, says Howard Simon, executive director of the state's ACLU, is attempting to "gut the Voting Rights Act."

Is all of this enough to propel Mitt Romney to victory over Barack Obama? Well, the president received 96 percent of black votes in 2008 and more than two-thirds of the Latino vote. And Florida is the nation's largest swing state. Many of the measures, like those in Arizona, Texas, and Minnesota, are under review by courts or face public votes in the future. "The fate of these laws," says the NAACP's Jealous, "will determine that of our country for years to come."

Chuck Strouse is editor in chief of Miami New Times.

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8 comments
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Jack
Jack

Tony, Thanks for showing that you are truely an IDIOT!

Jack
Jack

What a bunch of BULLSHIt here! You don't care about a legitimate election, you will say/do anything to get your boy back in. You are not a Journalist, you are a piece of shit with a biased aganda. Learn to play by the rules, and quit spreading the BS, YOU are part of the problem!

effeminate dad
effeminate dad

One of the more ill-informed, unfounded articles I can remember CP printing. You're way afraid of black people, Chuck.

Jryan464
Jryan464

I find your article a bit "Off Kilter". I have never heard of "voting on a Sunday". It's always the first Tuesday of a given month, like yesterday for some states. Why should they get to vote on Sunday because its an "African-American Tradition"? Really? That seem to me to be "special treatment". And as far as voter ID, ever state should require a Driver's License to vote. With that said, if you don't have a Driver's License or State ID, everyone knows where and how to get one! Duh! And they aren't expensive. If you can't afford to get an ID card, then you're probably living under a bridge in a box! Seriously! Get off this stupid rant about "Jim Crow"! It's a bunch of bull and you know it!!

Richard Garyson
Richard Garyson

Obtaining a state-issued photo ID is neither hard nor expensive. Not only that, but it is required for nearly every transaction we make. Whether you are buying beer or a house, you need a photo ID. Going on an airplane? Not without a photo ID. Getting a job? Not without a photo ID. And yet, not even the most ardent leftist would claim that non-whites are being denied access to beer, housing, employment, and flying because they do not have photo IDs. A white man recently posed as Eric Holder to prove a point on how easy it is to commit voter fraud. He said he was Eric Holder, so the voting judge handed him the ballot. The left is fooling no one, they want a system that allows as much voter fraud as possible, because they benefit the most from it.

ronk1957
ronk1957

I agree with Chuck Strouse ! You shouldn't have to be a citizen to vote and you should be able to vote as many times as you want. And why should you even need to have an ID ? Electing the next leader of our country isn't as important as say "buying a six pack of beer". Also by "Jim Crow Laws" is Chuck Strouse talking about the voter intimidation at the polls by the Black Panthers that was ignored by Obama ?

Tony
Tony

Hey Ronk, turn off Fox Channel...black panther story never happened, look it up. Oh by the way, the cleaners called & your Klan robes are ready. This simply to make it harder to vote. My brothers wife was born in China & is now US citizen. They own land in Wisc. & because after 3 moves over the years she has lost her citizen papers, it costs $700 to get a copy. Grandma wants to register(you need your birth certificate if no drivers license) but was born in small town MN & the records were lost in fire or just lost, this will costs a fortune to re-document. Free ID's(many states have) but most have limited them to just a few offices in the state. Dont have a car & the office is 200 miles away? Should I keep on going? Stationed in Iraq & want to vote? How do you show your ID to a voting judge in MN? To register in MN you need to show an ID(license, student ID or Military ID or old ID w/gas or electric bill to prove new address) or have a neighbor vouch(they must be registered in that precinct). Violation is a felony. Would you go to jail for 1 vote? There is no fraud & nobody has shown any.

vnvnvnvvnvn
vnvnvnvvnvn

By making such stupid statements as your headline, you cheapen genuine racism. Pathetic!

 
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