If you think the metastasizing problem of photo voter ID laws has no connection to anti-immigrant, “illegal alien” paranoia, one need only examine the example of Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach. Not satisfied with the strict photo voter ID bill he helped become law in Kansas last year, Kobach also created a law that would make first-time voter registrants show proof of their citizenship—a law that isn’t slated to kick in until 2013, but which Kobach wants in place by this November’s elections. State senators recently blocked Kobach’s wishes to speed up the proof of citizenship requirement, but it’s clear where the secretary of state is headed with this: a system where anyone who is an immigrant, or even looks like they might be an immigrant, but is eligible to vote will feel discouraged from showing up at the polls to exercise their franchise toward democracy.
As Kobach keeps upping the ante for who can vote in his own state, he’s also traveling around the country kibitzing in conversations around how to make voting and immigration more difficult in other states. Note the recent report from KanVote, which through freedom of information act requests documented Kobach’s calendar and whereabouts for much of the last year. It shows Kobach spending more time lawyering immigration cases in states like Nebraska, California and Pennsylvania than he has been spending time helping Kansas government agencies administer the photo voter ID law he imposed on voters. It also shows him gathering at events sponsored by the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council and with groups that have taken hard stances against immigration.
Remember that Kobach is behind the notorious anti-immigrant bills in Arizona (SB 1070) and Alabama (HB 56). (For a perfect graphic of Kobach’s ties to anti-immigrant bills in Alabama and beyond peep this from Mother Jones), both of which have been challenged by courts and the federal government. And deny as he may his connections to organizations that have little value for South American immigrants, there is plenty of evidence that Kobach has been pallin’ around with such groups, as spelled out recently by Heidi Beirich at HateWatch.
One particular group to look at that Kobach has been hobnobbing with, as seen in the KanVote files, is the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, a group formed after 9/11 that believes a specialized identification card should be created in order to keep “foreigners” and “terrorists” out of the country. As said on their site:
CSDL supports strengthening driver’s license rules at the state level so state officials do not issue licenses to anyone who will not provide substantive proof of identity, regardless of the applicants’ reason for not doing so. … Authenticating identity of driver’s license applicants will keep drunks and reckless drivers from getting new licenses under assumed or changed names, help prevent underage drinking and smoking,* reduce voter fraud*, help protect against identity theft, help law enforcement find deadbeat dads, and unmask sexual predators using fraudulent identities to hide from arrest warrants and sex offender requirements.
If it’s not already bad enough that millions of Americans find it burdensome and difficult to get the kind of driver’s license ID card needed to vote in at least nine states today (counting just states that offer no non-photo alternative to photo voter IDs to vote), CDSL would like to make it even more difficult to get a driver’s license. Putting such ID policies in place would, of course, shut off even more people, especially people of color who disproportionately lack ID, from freely exercising their right to vote.
The fact that Kobach, an avowed leader of the anti-immigrant agenda, is taking time from educating his state’s voters about new voting procedures to work with groups who want to make obtaining an ID an even thornier process than it already is would tend to confirm suspicions that part of the voter ID agenda has anti-immigrant intentions. Kobach is far from the only person, though, that seems to view the need for restrictive voting laws in tandem with an “illegal alien” issue.
On a PBS “News Hour” segment with Gwen Ifill, Heritage Foundation’s Hans Von Spakovsky said, “Photo I.D. laws can prevent illegal aliens from registering and voting.…I think the very next stage after photo I.D. is going to be states putting in requirements that you provide prove of citizenship when you register to vote, to also try to solve that problem.”
Columnist Mike Rosen would concur, stating recently in the Denver Post, “Yes, illegal immigrants and other lawbreakers might have trouble getting a valid photo ID, but why should that bother you, unless you’re a Democrat who assumes most of those people would vote for your party?”
In Mississippi, where the state is trying to fast track a photo voter ID bill for this year’s presidential elections despite its law must survive federal review under the Voting Rights Act just like with Texas and South Carolina, Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo also seems to find immigration a problem conflated with voting, saying recently, “Whether it be immigration or border security or voting procedures, our Department of Justice should be more concerned with upholding the law rather than suing states on the taxpayer dime.”
A recent New York magazine article about Republican panic around voting quotes Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol, who studied Tea Party activists and found that “along with illegal immigrants, low-income Americans and young people loom large as illegitimate consumers of public benefits and services.”
This is probably true for lawmakers for whom a situation like Takoma Park in Maryland, where lawmakers have protected the right of non-citizens to participate in democracy by voting, is a nightmare scenario for the country. Those same lawmakers believe that President Obama was elected into office by way of fraudulent votes cast by people who don’t belong in the country, namely Latino immigrants and basically anyone from low-income communities that groups like ACORN registered to vote. Without coincidence these are also the same two groups who will be the hardest affected by Kobach’s voting and immigration policies.