Thursday, January 16, 2014

Getting our Voices Back

You may remember a big story that kept cropping up during the last campaign cycle. It had to do with new laws requiring voters in some states to show a state-issued photo ID before voting. The concern from many people, myself included, was that these laws not only did little to prevent the few cases of voter fraud that were uncovered, but unfairly targeted the poor and minorities who were less likely to have state-issued ID cards in the first place.

In June of last year, the Supreme Court struck down a key measure of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which prevented discrimination by state governments against any legal citizen. The argument from the court was that the law was outdated, and that the requirement that changes to voting laws in states with a history of racial discrimination be approved by the federal government was unnecessary.

A new bill has been introduced in Congress, however, that seeks to change this. Though starting out small, with only a few backers, the bill promises to reset the condition of federal oversight for states that have discriminated in the past, and would expand that oversight to additional states.

While I won't say that this will fix our voting system, I am glad to see that steps are being taken to protect the rights of American citizens from being denied. We can argue all we want about how it's a new age, and how discrimination is no longer an issue, but if Voter ID laws continue to keep people from being able to exercise their right to vote, then that is a problem.

I understand that some people believe we have a problem with voter fraud. Maybe we do, but I haven't seen any evidence to prove it yet. But even if it's an epidemic in our society, we need to use measures to combat it that preserve the right for people who are using it correctly. And voter ID laws have been shown to do little to counter voter fraud as it currently exists.

I hope this law will pass, and that we can bring some measure of sanity back to our voting process. It seems like it should be such a simple thing to accomplish. But like all simple things, we have to have a debate over it, and lines drawn in the sand, before we can even begin to discuss solutions.

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