Are voter ID laws racist? This question takes center stage in this video segment produced by True the Vote 2012, a Tea Party affiliated group focused on "...examining the registry, recruiting, training and mobilizing election workers and poll watchers." True the Vote is an outgrowth of the Tea Party Patriots, a Houston-based group whose goals are akin to those of Jim Crow-era pollwatchers. The group uses voter intimidation tactics, driven by its unfounded belief that voter fraud runs rampant and threatens democracy.
As you'll see in the clip, a staffer from the conservative Media Research Center asks a series of Black respondents, "Do you think you should have to show ID when you go to vote?" Unsurprisingly, the majority of the respondents say yes. What's wrong with having to prove you are who you say you are?
But there's plenty wrong with the voter ID bills that have swept state legislatures in recent years. Namely, millions of eligible voters are being systematically disenfranchised.
Earlier this month, the Center for American Progress released this report outlining how conservative-backed legislation is threatening the votes of millions of people of color, elderly and rural folks. And voter ID is just one part of the assault on voting rights. From new barriers for those registering to vote, to shortened early voting periods, new requirements for already registered voters, and rigs to the Electoral College in select states, voter suppression efforts threaten to roll back some of the hardest fought victories of the Civil Rights Movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Most importantly, the report puts a real face on the issue by including profiles of citizens whose rights have already come under attack. Like Dorothy Cooper:
Dorothy is a 96-year-old African-American woman who says she has voted in every election but one since she became eligible to vote. Yet when she attempted to obtain a voter ID she was turned away because she did not have a copy of her marriage license. In a subsequent interview Dorothy said that she didn’t even have problems voting in Tennessee “during Jim Crow days" —only now under Voter ID.
Seasoned voters like Dorothy aren't the only citizens coming under attack. College students — who tend to lean to the left in voting — will be turned away come Election Day if they can't produce the necessary ID. In Texas, a gun permit gets you access to the polls, but your student ID doesn't.
So voter ID laws aren't as innocuous as the "reporter" in this clip makes them out to be. What's motivating him, the Tea Party Patriots and their offshoot, the deceptively-named True the Vote?
According to a report by The Advancement Project: "The 2008 elections saw record turnout by Black and Brown voters, offering a glimpse of what a more equitable voter participation might look like." The far right is terrified of what full access to the polls could mean for the 2012 election.