GOP-Backed Voter ID Laws Are Preventing Poor People From Voting
This isn't a bug, this is a feature:
Dorothy Cooper is 96 but she can remember only one election when she's been eligible to vote but hasn't.
The retired domestic worker was born in a small North Georgia town before women had the right to vote. She began casting ballots in her 20s after moving to Chattanooga for work. She missed voting for John F. Kennedy in 1960 because a move to Nashville prevented her from registering in time.
So when she learned last month at a community meeting that under a new state law she'd need a photo ID to vote next year, she talked with a volunteer about how to get to a state Driver Service Center to get her free ID. But when she got there Monday with an envelope full of documents, a clerk denied her request.
That morning, Cooper slipped a rent receipt, a copy of her lease, her voter registration card and her birth certificate into a Manila envelope. Typewritten on the birth certificate was her maiden name, Dorothy Alexander.
"But I didn't have my marriage certificate," Cooper said Tuesday afternoon, and that was the reason the clerk said she was denied a free voter ID at the Cherokee Boulevard Driver Service Center.
Cooper was able to vote during the days of Jim Crow, but under Tennessee's recently passed voter ID law, she can't get an ID because she didn't have every single last piece of documentation the state would require. Now, some might say that Cooper's case is just an unfortunate incident of a well-meaning system failing a select few individuals, but it's not: Making it harder for immigrants, minorities, students and poor people to vote is exactly part of the plan. It's like Rep. Steve King said as he longed for the days when only white property owners could vote:
KING: As I roll this thing back and I think of American history, there was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was, because they wanted the people who voted—that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending—to have some skin in the game.
Now I don't think they're paying taxes. But many of them are voting. And when they vote, they vote for more government benefits.
Not that Rep. King is alone. This is what New Hampshire State House Speaker William O'Brien had to say this spring in defense of a bill that would have made it significantly harder for students to vote in New Hampshire:
New Hampshire's new Republican state House speaker is pretty clear about what he thinks of college kids and how they vote. They're "foolish," Speaker William O'Brien said in a recent speech to a tea party group.
"Voting as a liberal. That's what kids do," he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack "life experience," and "they just vote their feelings.
Got that? If you vote as a liberal, you don't deserve to vote. The only way you deserve to vote is if you're the type of person who will vote to enrich the class of male property owners. That's why 38 states have introduced some form of suppressive voter ID law; after all, the people who are likely to be affected by them aren't the people that "deserve" to be voting, and white property owners will likely have the resources to get the IDs they need.
And in case it wasn't clear enough, the sponsor of the bill in Tennessee doesn't have high regard for the people her law could affect:
In this video, the House sponsor of the photo ID voter law defends it against questions from a gaggle of pesky reporters. Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, dismisses Democratic claims that many poor people don't have photo ID. She wonders how "all these people" are able to buy beer and cigarettes without driver's licenses. Later in the interview, she denies she's referring to poor people. Maybe she was talking about wealthy Republican voters.
Maggart: Tell me how people are buying beer and cigarettes? They have to have an ID to do that, a photo ID to do that. I have a hard time believing that all these people don’t have an ID. … You have to have a photo ID to get public housing. You have to have a birth certificate to get public housing. … I think there’s more people with a photo ID than they want to admit.
Q: You were referring to housing project residents? You think they buy an inordinate amount of beer and cigarettes?
Maggart: No, I didn’t say that. I’m just saying a lot of people have photo ID.
Poor people: they're all a bunch of drug-addicted losers on public housing, so who cares if they vote, right Rep. Maggart? Just shameless.