With Election Day around the corner, and concerns about another voting debacle of Florida 2000-proportions running high (especially given problems at primaries this year in Maryland, Ohio, Illinois and several other states) – Republicans in Congress are on the job and doing everything they can to further disenfranchise voters.
Rather than taking the necessary steps to strengthen, expand and improve the democratic process, the GOP has launched a new effort to create modern-day Jim Crow exclusionary practices through new voter ID requirements.
The House recently passed a bill along party lines requiring voters to present a photo ID beginning in 2008. Starting in 2010, voters would need to pay for a government-issued proof of citizenship – a virtual poll tax. This shameful legislation was passed just months after the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act when President Bush declared “the right of ordinary men and women to determine their own political future.”
“If the [House] Bill passed the Senate and became law, the electorate would likely become more middle-aged, whiter and richer – and, its sponsors are anticipating, more Republican,” the New York Times wrote in a recent editorial.
Demos, a national public policy organization, reports that the legislation would disproportionately impact people of color, individuals with disabilities, rural voters, people living on reservations, the homeless, and low-income people – all of whom studies show are less likely to carry a photo ID and more often have to change photo ID information.
Senate Democrats have asked that Majority Leader Bill Frist not bring the bill to the floor. In a letter to Frist, Senators Reid, Kennedy, Dodd and Obama wrote: “The burdensome and costly requirements of obtaining [citizenship] documents not only could prevent many eligible voters from participating, but… Worst of all, this bill recalls a dark era in our nation when individuals were required to pay a poll tax to cast their ballot and has been termed a 21st century poll tax.” Frist’s next move remains to be seen.