The debate over voter ID laws has been ongoing with many citizens buying into the Republican hype that an ID is needed to buy beer. And so, what’s wrong with needing ID to vote? Comparing buying beer and alcohol to voting is worse than comparing apples to oranges. It’s non even a fruit. Buying beer and voting have nothing in common. Our democracy is based on voting and not buying beer. The U.S. constitution protects the right to vote. But to hear Republicans, you’d think that buying beer and voting are one and the same when it comes to the requirement of an ID. One Republican lawmaker, broke ground with his party on the beer and vote comparison.
Just last week, Michigan Republican governor Rick Snyder surprised his party and Democrats when he vetoed the voter ID law passed by the state legislature. Governor Snyder vetoed the bill that would have set tighter voter ID and citizenship requirements and restricted voter registration. He is the first governor to stand up to his own party and buck their voter ID law disguised as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Republicans assert the voter ID laws maintain integrity but they in reality disenfranchise voters.
On Monday, July 9 the Justice Department squares off in federal court in Washington, DC over Texas’ voter ID law, SB 14, which requires voters to show one of a very narrow list of government-issued documents and excludes Social Security, Medicaid, or student ID cards. Gun licenses, however, are acceptable. The Justice Department asserts that the law will disproportionately disenfranchise Hispanic voters and violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Department of Justice says the law will disenfranchise over 600,000 voters who do not have the required documents and mainly Hispanics. Despite the state of Texas’ claims that the law is needed to protect against voter fraud, the San Antonio Express found only 5 reported cases out of over 13 million participating voters over a two year period. That is hardly a reason to protect against voter fraud.
And Mike Turzai, a Republican Pennsylvania state lawmaker, further confirms that the voter ID laws are not needed to prevent voter fraud. Turzai told a group of Republicans in June, that the voter ID requirement in Pennsylvania will help Mitt Romney win the election, confirming the GOP’s real purpose in these oppressive laws. It is estimated that there are 750,000 Pennsylvania voters, mostly minorities, students and seniors, without the requisite ID needed to vote. Turzai only confirms what Heritage Foundation co-founder said years ago. Republicans do not want everyone to vote.
Conservative group Heritage Foundation co-founder, Paul Weyrich, once told a group of conservatives that he doesn’t want everyone to vote. He states that the Republicans ability to win goes up when the voting population goes down.
Although, his words were spoken in the 1980’s, Republicans have moved forward in 2012 helping to make his conservative vision a reality.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner made it a point that every law maker should read the constitution. Well, the US Constitution’s 15th amendment, ratified in 1870, states the right to vote shall not be denied due to race. Yet, it was not until almost 100 years later, in 1965, that many blacks were able to vote in southern states with the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Many eighteen year olds are in school. In 2012, the GOP voter ID laws will prevent many young adults from voting, although they will be able to buy beer. An acceptable college ID will allow them to buy beer but not vote in some states. And many minorities will still be able to buy beer with various forms of ID but not vote.
Identification is needed to buy alcohol and tobacco. The alcohol and tobacco industry would be up in arms if the government tried to make it more difficult to make those purchases by requiring strict forms of photo ID, excluding student ID and other valid forms. And every conservative in American would cry foul. Yet, when it comes to voting, there is not the same sense of outrage among many Americans.
There is no constitutional right to buy beer or alcohol. But, we can’t seem to convince Republicans that beer is not in the constitution. Voting for every citizen over 18, regardless of race, is in the constitution. But, Republicans want to make voting a country club privilege, if they have their way.
Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post