Blue vs. White: Voter ID laws are a tool of disenfranchisement, not justice
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2013 00:10
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year, North Carolina passed House Bill 589 on August 11, which state Republicans claim is a stringent voter ID law, but in reality is something far more sinister. Voter I.D. laws have become far more frequent in recent state legislation history, with 34 states having adopted some form of voter I.D. legislation, and extremely strict photo I.D. requirements already exist in four states; but behind the stated goal of reducing voter fraud lies House Bill 589’s true motivation: disenfranchisement of the poor population which happens to be overwhelmingly made up of minority groups.
House Bill 589 requires a higher standard of identification than the vast majority of the country’s ratified voter I.D. laws; proof of residence is no longer enough, instead one must present a form of photo ID which is strictly limited to driver’s licenses, passports, Veteran’s I.D.s, or tribal cards. What is true for most Americans, not just North Carolinians, is that they are neither veterans nor Native Americans, and indigent citizens primarily use public transportation, precluding the need for a driver’s license, with the notable exception of international air travel, which is perpetually out of their price range, effectively making the purchase of a $130 passport largely inconceivable. Republicans in North Carolina have, rather uncharacteristically, offered to mandate the state to issue driver’s licenses free of charge, a move expected to cost North Carolina $832,000 in 2013, to the estimated 203,000 registered voters without photo I.D., but this provides little solace to the working-class who often live paycheck-to-paycheck and simply lack the time to sacrifice a day pursuing a form of I.D. they will seldom use.
The issue of voter fraud, which House Bill 589 claims to combat, is virtually nonexistent; North Carolina’s own State Board of Elections has found that in-state voter fraud has occurred in an infinitesimal .00174 percent of all ballots. As the Brennan Center For Justice points out, in the last 13 years there have only been 10 incidents of in-person voter fraud, on a national level, thus making the entire purpose of House Bill 589 ostensibly useless; that is, unless, the true reason for the bill is not to prevent voter fraud.
By investigating the various provisions contained within House Bill 589, one inevitably comes across a few extremely disconcerting sections. Section 44.1, half of North Carolina’s landmark “Stand By Your Ad” provision, required the candidate or CEO whose entity paid for a political ad to pronounce on TV or radio “I am (Individual’s Name) and I approve this message,” but has now been repealed. Public financing for the judiciary has been repealed, making the courts far more susceptible to manipulation by concentrated sectors of wealth, and sure enough, the limit on the amount an individual can donate towards a judicial candidate’s campaign has been raised from $1,000 to $5,000. A measure mandating the top five donors of each campaign to publicly announce themselves in print media has been completely repealed, making the already dubious use of “dark money” even more immune from scrutiny. Section 56 allows wealthy entities to spend an unlimited amount of money on attack ads against candidates they oppose without having to identify themselves as the source of funding until September 7 of an election year. The “Use of Building Funds” provision in Section 43 allows candidates to use their accumulated donations to pay unlimited expenses for up to three employees.
All of these additions and repeals are specifically designed to carry out a plan that Karl Rove publicly announced in a 2010 Wall Street Journal column. By concentrating corporate donations in states about to conduct their decennial redistricting process, Republicans can unilaterally redraw congressional districts to grant themselves political arenas in which they are completely guaranteed to win; minorities and other Democrats are concentrated into voter Bantustans, literally like those of Apartheid South Africa, meanwhile whites are spread across multiple districts with generous Republican majorities. Typically the judiciary rejects blatant gerrymandering, but by making judges beholden to private concentrations of wealth, they are no longer accountable to the public. Corporations can now funnel unlimited funds into gerrymandering projects conducted by three employees for every candidate the illimitable donations carry to victory.
Even if voter fraud was a problem, which it irrefutably is not, photo I.D. laws like those of North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Tennessee are of far more dire consequence for the simple fact that they are tools used to disenfranchise up to a half of an entire state’s population. Photo I.D. laws are wholly unnecessary, unless your goal is to keep indigent citizens from expressing their voting rights, and that’s exactly what North Carolina Republicans, as well as the conservatives of other states, are trying to accomplish.