Voter IDs: The ‘Hanging Chads’ of 2012

Posted on 24 February 2012

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By Khalil Abdullah
New America Media

A gathering of activists, journalists and voting rights advocates met recently to discuss the growing number of states that have adopted what many see as discriminatory voter registration laws. Such policies, they argue, do more to limit rather than expand democracy, threatening to disenfranchise millions in the lead up to the November elections.

Citizen journalist Faye Anderson was among those gathered at last week’s symposium, hosted by the Center for American Progress. Taking aim at new regulations in several states that require voters to show photo ID, she equated the law to the controversy hanging over the 2000 presidential race.

The regulation, she says, will be the “hanging chads” of the 2012 election.

Describing herself as a “chief evangelist” for the Cost of Freedom Project, a grass-roots voting rights initiative, Anderson called for national organizations, community activists and individuals to harness technology and social media to educate voters about how to comply with the new laws.

The Freedom Project is currently developing mobile phone apps in order to inform voters about the ID requirements in the states where they reside.

According to Nicole Austin-Hillery, D.C. Counsel and Director of the Washington, D.C. Office of the Brennan Center for Justice, the dramatic change since before 2011, when only Georgia and Indiana required a voter photo ID, will “seriously impact the next presidential election.”

Austin-Hillery estimated that as many as five million Americans – mostly elderly, young and minorities -- may be impeded from voting in November and that the states where more restrictive voting measures have been enacted represent 60 percent of the votes of the Electoral College.

“Nine states will not allow you to vote without a voter ID,” Austin-Hillery said, noting that at least 15 states have sought to tighten voting ID laws. Other barriers being erected include: the elimination of early voter periods; shortening the time during which absentee ballots can be filed; and curtailing ways in which voter registration drives can be conducted. Historically, registration drives have been a primary tool for registering minority and young voters.

Though only 11 percent of Americans currently lack a photo ID, Austin-Hillery explained that the percentages rise when viewed through different lenses. For example, 18 percent of Americans over 65 lack a photo ID as well as 25 percent of African Americans. Women whose last names may have been changed due to marriage will be disproportionately impacted as compared to men.

“Thirty four percent of women lack proof of citizenship that has that current legal name,” she said.

College students studying in states other than their own will be affected as well. Erica Maye, Communications Specialist at The Advancement Project, noted that though many students, if they have not registered to vote when they turned 18 years old in high school, register in college and receive IDs there. However, many college IDs do not list addresses and under many new voter registration laws, a photo ID must include an address.

“One way I think we can mitigate these effects is by using some of the on-line tools that we know young voters have been to a lot,” Maye said, referring to such sites as “Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube.” Maye also encourages the proliferation of on-line educational videos to enable students to determine the steps they need to take to be in compliance with new voting laws.

Data cited in the Brennan Center’s report, “Voting Changes in 2012,” show that, with one exception, the states that recently passed restrictive voter ID laws now boast Republican-controlled state legislatures. A number of these states have experienced a growing immigrant presence and several, like Texas, have sought to contain the potential voting impact of the Latino voting age population through redistricting initiatives or, like Alabama and Arizona, have enacted harsh anti-immigrant legislation.

“It’s not surprising,” said Eric Rodriquez, “where you see the overlap of states where there’s anti-immigrant legislation, you also see a lot of issues related to voter fraud, targeting immigrants, citizenship requirements, proof of ID requirements, et cetera.”

Rodriquez, who serves as Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, National Council of La Raza, said immigrants often become scapegoats during periods of transition. “The Latino community is on the cusp of really becoming more influential in critical states and elections.”

He said the fear and concern generated within those states by those who have traditionally held power is being given voice on the national stage, in part, by the meteoric rise of the Super PACs, which allow an unlimited flow of money into issue advocacy campaigns during an election cycle
Money also has long played a key role in state politics.

Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of, said he plans to use the influence and reach of his organization to target the corporate money that supports the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that develops model state legislation and was especially instrumental in sponsoring government-issued voter ID laws.

“ColorofChange, about three months ago, launched our campaign against voter suppression,” Robinson said. His organization, which claims 90,000 members as the largest on-line African-American political advocacy group, is initially targeting 12 of ALEC’s corporate contributors. Through letters, phone calls and discussions with those 12, “none of the corporations will be able to say they didn’t know what they were supporting,” he explained.

“We will hold these corporations accountable for the idea that they can’t come for black folks’ money during the day and take away our vote at night.” In essence, the campaign will tie specific corporate brands to voter suppression.

While the panelists noted that voter ID laws proposed in states covered by the Voting Rights Act may be rescinded by the U.S. Department of Justice, to rely on the speed of the federal government to act or on future changes in the composition of state legislatures to refine now existing laws is to put democracy at risk in November.


Khalil Abdullah reports for New America Media, the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2,000 ethnic news organizations. This article first appeared on New America Media.

As someone who has been DEEPLY involved in election integrity issues - particularly the way today's right wing works to suppress the vote and disenfranchise minority/poor voters this article rings sadly all too true.

Now, in addition to e-voting machines, vote caging, provisional ballots, and all the rest...EVERYBODY knows, just as the racist poll taxes before it, that voter id's are nothing more than a GOP effort to suppress poor, minority, student and poor senior voters...who overwhelmingly vote Democratic. The fact is millions of Americans do not have such ID's, nor can they afford them, and nor should they have to just to vote.

NO EVIDENCE has ever been shown there is a non-citizen voting problem in this country, nor a voting fraud (by people trying to vote more than once) issue. This was attempted to be proven by the Bush White House and they failed, and now, the Justice Department has said these Voter ID laws are unconstitutional because they target ALREADY disenfranchised voters.

The Justice Dept stated, in response to South Carolina's latest photo id suppression law saying it makes it harder for minorities to cast ballots. It was the first voter ID law to be refused by the federal agency in nearly 20 years.

"South Carolina's law didn't meet the burden under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory practices preventing blacks from voting. Tens of thousands of minorities in South Carolina might not be able to cast ballots under South Carolina's law because they don't have the right photo ID, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said."

Here's just a few examples, how, in practice, this law discriminates against the elderly and disabled..

(1) A 96 year old was denied because her married name was not the same on her driver's license. She was told to file an absentee ballot even though she lives right next door to the voting center.

(2) A 91 year old because she wasn't physically able to stand long enough in line because of overcrowding.

(3) The disabled have difficulty just getting to the photo ID centers.

(4) A 93 year old who cleaned the state capital building in Tennessee for over 30 years. She was denied because she has no birth certificate. Back then she was delivered by a midwife. Therefore has no proof of her citizenship.

Some more facts from an excellent breakdown of these laws: Most states require anyone applying to have a permanent address so they can verify the proper district your eligible to vote in. What about the homeless or 100,000's that have just been evicted? They still should have the right to do so. How about the costs to those who cannot afford to acquire the supporting documentation (birth certificates, etc.) if they even have one?

What about felons who have served their prior sentences. In some states they are barred from voting.. EVER!

10 states and the District of Columbia also restrict some people with a misdemeanor conviction from voting. If you think this is no big deal. WELL IT IS since it affects some 5.3 million Americans who have priors."

What a GREAT way to suppress likely democratic, and powerless, voters!! What more could the 1% want???

Where do these restrictions end? How far will the GOP and the 1% go in trying to limit voting? Maybe drug testing? How about education level? Maybe you have to have a job next?

Voter ID's are modern day poll taxes...and nothing more than voter suppression.

Id's are required for driving and many other activties. Why not voting?

Because of ALL the arguments just made by the author and myself...and the DETRIMENTAL effect such ID's would have on democracy, how they'd disenfranchise millions of voters (to the benefit of one party...the GOP), and because of the REASONS such voter suppression tactics are being orchestrated by a powerful elite...all in the face of NO EVIDENCE there's a voter fraud problem (except apparently when it comes to a lot of recent Republicans voting in places they shouldn't be).

Can you read "commenter"? Did you read the article? Can you make basic logical deductions based on data and evidence? Or are you a "paid by the comment" right wing troller? Either're an embarrassment...