Sometimes, when I ask my students a question like “which reading do you want to talk about first,” I get only one or two people responding. I often make a joke about democracy not working with so few votes.
The Supreme Court may grapple soon with efforts to make it harder to vote, to discourage voting. Striking down so much of the old Voting Rights Act has had some frightening consequences. In other words, deciding to trust states not to try to disenfranchise black voters has opened the door to the disenfranchisement of young, poor, and voters of color. Of course, the issue isn’t really about race anymore–if black people voted Republican, they wouldn’t be getting screwed now.
The new laws in various states controlled by Republicans are designed to ensure that Republicans can vote and that others may not be able to. Voter ID laws, getting rid of early voting, etc–these all target the urban, the poor, the young, the old, who may not have a picture ID or who may not be able to get to a polling place easily. One Texas law, which accepts a gun ID, but not a student ID, as proof of identity, could not be clearer in terms of who is encouraged to vote.
Those who support these laws say the laws are there to reduce voter fraud. When confronted with the less than 1% incidence of voter fraud, they will say that even one fraudulent ballot is worth all the trouble.
I don’t happen to share that view, because I’m offended by the idea of lots of people not being allowed to vote or having their ballots thrown out just in case there’s *an* invalid ballot.
I take this personally. When the Supreme Court stopped the absentee ballot count in the 2000 election, they stopped a count that included MY vote (I had just moved to California).
I can’t help but think of our already low voter turnout and why anyone actually interested in democracy (as opposed to oligarchy) would try to make it even lower. I think about other countries, where voting is required or where election day is a holiday or where people are automatically registered the second they become an adult. These countries don’t seem to have problems with voter fraud.
We need an updated Voting Rights Act, one that focuses not on race as the only thing officials might be taking into consideration–we need one that makes voting as popular and accessible and vibrant as it deserves to be.