Saturday 28 August 2021
As Democrats maneuver to push voting rights legislation through Congress, some prominent party members have expressed openness to a GOP-backed policy they have long opposed: the demands of voter identification.
“We are not opposed to voter identification,” Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the Third House Democrat, told NPR this month. “Each of us who registered to vote receives a voter card. And you present that card every time you go to vote. It’s a voter card.”
The change comes 13 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that if states wanted to require voters to present photo ID to vote, they could.
Eleven states, many with state legislatures primarily controlled by the GOP, have strict voter identification laws, while 24 others have less stringent laws requiring ID to vote, according to the National Conference. state legislatures. Democrats have fought these demands tooth and nail, usually with limited results.
While most Americans have the type of government-issued ID that the strictest laws require, the millions of Americans who don’t are more likely to be eligible voters from marginalized groups. .
In Georgia, where a new law includes an identity requirement for postal ballots that previously did not exist, more than half of the voters likely to be affected are black, according to a Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis.
There is also no evidence of widespread electoral fraud that would require stricter security measures.
Between the impact on non-white voters and the lack of widespread voter fraud, Democrats have been quick to describe laws identifying voters as racist and disenfranchising.
“We need to take our case directly to the American people and emphasize what it is about,” then Vice President Joe Biden said in 2014. “This is an attempt to suppress the minority vote. posing as an attempt to end corruption. “
But after a decade of taking their case directly to the American people, it seems the Democrats are softening that stance because the American people don’t seem to have budged.
The partisan divide over identity documents concerns their type
One of the reasons for the change in tone regarding voter identification is the effort to craft legislation that could gain the approval of the 50 Senate Democrats, including key moderates such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. . He appeared open to identification requirements as long as items such as student cards and utility bills are accepted.
But so far House Democrats have not included any language requiring voter identification in any of the two important ballot bills it has passed. In fact, the For the People Act, which was passed by the House in a party line vote in March, reduces voter identification requirements.
Partisan divide over ID now appears to be over what kind identity documents are acceptable. Republicans generally want a narrower range of government-issued ID, while Democrats generally want less restrictive ID requirements.
“I’m just not convinced Democrats are even serious about debating voter identification issues that many Republicans would support,” said Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, the leading Republican on the committee. administration of the House.
Most Americans want people to show ID to vote
The fight over voter ID continues to be an uphill battle for Democrats as most Americans have and continue to support voter ID measures.
A recent Monmouth University poll found that 80% of Americans believe people should have to show photo ID to vote.
“No matter how you vote, voters love the requirement for photo ID,” said Charles Stewart, who heads the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “I mean it’s kind of a no-brainer for a lot of the American public… including most Democrats.”
The Monmouth poll found that 56% of people who identified as Liberals and 84% of non-white voters were in favor of photo ID requirements.
But advocates still believe this is a case where people responding to such surveys are likely the ones who likely already have government IDs like driver’s licenses in their wallets.
“I can’t help but wonder if Americans knew more about the extent and impact of voter identification laws, we would see those poll numbers change,” said Lauren Kunis, executive director of VoteRiders, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people obtain identification. “My strong feeling is that the answer would be yes.”
Stewart of MIT, however, disagrees.
As someone who doesn’t think there should be more barriers to voting, Stewart personally opposes the laws.
But as someone who has quizzed Americans about photo ID laws for years, he’s also come to the conclusion that he’s in the minority. Public support for identity laws has not waned over the past decade, even as Democrats have hammered them.
“In most of the United States, when you put your kids in school, you have to immunize them and you have to show a birth certificate,” Stewart said. “So I think grassroots Americans have experience, there are times when I have to prove myself and I have to do these really tough things, and if somebody can’t do these things, then that’s it. just a shame. “
Democrats can adapt to this political reality as well.
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