Seeds: Since the creation of the United States, there have been laws that restrict who can vote. For a long time it was only land owning white males who could vote, then eventually when slaves were freed and granted citizenship, those men could vote as well (though there were still obstacles that made it difficult). Women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1920, and even then there were voting laws that essentially made it so only white women could vote, while others had to pass complicated literacy tests that made it nearly impossible for them to vote. In short, the United States has done a lot over the years to restrict who can vote for the people who run our country.
Core: Over the past few weeks, five courts in five states have ruled against Voter ID laws which these states argue are to prevent voter fraud, though the courts agreed that these laws disproportionately affect Black, Hispanic, and Native American voters. These laws differ by state, with some states requiring government issued ID’s (such as driver's licenses), and others only accepting passports, citizenship certificates, military IDs and other sources of photo identification that minority voters are significantly less likely to own. Also, in some states these laws restrict early-voting and same day registration (which is disproportionately used by black people), but exempted absentee ballots (which is disproportionately use by white people). Interestingly, minority voters are much more likely to vote Democrat, and the states that passed these laws are Republican-dominant.
Skin: There is a discussion as to whether these laws are “politics, not racism.” Some argue that Republican leadership was trying to aid their cause by encouraging fewer Democratic voters to get out to the polls. Furthermore, they argue that they aren’t discriminating against minorities because of their race, but rather because of where their loyalties lie.
Leaves: A few other states still have strict voter ID laws and given the spate of laws recently overturned, it’s quite possible we’ll hear more about them in the future. These laws are especially significant with our elections coming up in November.
Food For Thought: Do you think that the laws are racist, or just politics? Do you think that socioeconomic status plays more of a factor in these debates, or race? Do you think that things such as affirmative action or voter ID laws are a socioeconomic, political, or race problem?