The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 19, 2013

Other Views: Making voting difficult

— Congress clearly has seen the need for the 1965 Voting Rights Act that guarantees all Americans access to the ballot box. In 2006, it extended the law for another 25 years, with the Senate voting 98-0 and the House 390-93.

But in June, the John Roberts Supreme Court decided 5-4 that the bad old days of voter intimidation were a thing of the past. It lifted the need for federal preclearance to change voting laws, a condition in 15 jurisdictions, most of them Southern states.

It took barely a week for North Carolina’s Republican-dominated Legislature to prove them wrong. The lawmakers proved that voter suppression, once accomplished by beatings, fire bombings and job loss, hasn’t gone away. It has become more sophisticated.

Voters now must present state-issued photo IDs. Only four forms are considered valid — driver’s licenses, passports, veteran’s IDs and tribal membership cards — obtained or updated at least 25 days ahead of the election.

The lawmakers also ended a voter-registration program for high school seniors about to turn 18 — and these are their own kids.

Thus the Legislature cut down the number of likely voters among students, young people, public employees and the poor. By one measure, 318,000 voters from 2012 now lack the proper ID.

The Legislature also eliminated same-day registration, cut a week off the window for early voting and eliminated straight-ticket voting.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory defended the law: “Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.”

Buying nasal congestion medicine is not a constitutional right. Voting is, and as with any right, it should be extended to as many citizens as possible.

The irony is that the voter ID law attacks a problem — voter fraud — that doesn’t really exist. Of the 6,947,317 ballots cast last year in North Carolina, only 121 were reported to the state board of elections. The Associated Press says only a “handful” of in-person voter fraud cases have been prosecuted in the last decade.

However, there will be legal bills. The ACLU and the NAACP, among other groups, immediately announced court challenges to the new law. Drafters of the 1965 federal law surely didn’t have North Carolina specifically in mind, but they were certainly prescient in foreseeing states’ attempts to disenfranchise voters, mostly minorities, “through unremitting and ingenious defiance of the Constitution.”

— Scripps Howard News Service

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