The Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act paves the way for a variety of new laws to restrict voting in states and counties that have historically tried to keep the poor and people of color from casting ballots. In fact, states like Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Florida are already striking while the iron is hot, moving forward with measures that will keep certain voters from casting a ballot in the next election. Here at MMXLII we think the electorate ought to reflect the population, and that everyone who wants to vote should be able to. Which is why we’ve decided to publish this guide to these new voting laws, and how to make sure they don’t keep your voice from being heard next November.
VOTER ID LAWS
WHAT: A new voter ID law, rejected by a federal court last year under the now-void Voting Rights Act, requires state-issued photo identification to cast a ballot. Texan officials have declared that after the Supreme Court’s decision they plan to enact the law “immediately.”
WHO IT AFFECTS: Because of the fees associated with obtaining such ID, this law disproportionately affects the underprivileged. In fact, the federal court that previously struck down the law did so because they found that it “imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty.” Texan Hispanics, in particular, are 120 percent more likely to lack the type of ID which will soon be needed to vote in their home state.
HOW TO BEAT IT: The best bet for the underprivileged Texans this law affects the most is to apply for an Election Identification Certificate, which can be done at no charge. Instructions for doing so can be found here. All you need to do is register to vote, fill out an application, and then visit a driver license office.
CUTS TO EARLY VOTING HOURS
WHAT: In a move widely seen as being politically motivated, Florida has, as recently as 2012, cut the number of hours of early voting, and even eliminated early voting on Sundays altogether.
WHO IT AFFECTS: Democrats, who have been shown to vote heavily during early voting. African Americans in particular, a reliably Democratic constituency, have been shown to have greater turn-out on Sunday mornings, possibly because of get out the vote campaigns organized by black churches.
HOW TO BEAT IT: In 2012 cuts lead to long lines at polling places. Voters beat the discriminatory practices with patience and determination, sticking out the wait and demanding that their ballots be counted even when polling stations attempted to shut down.
Additionally, many election offices stayed open to accept absentee ballots, so requesting one, even if you’re already planning to vote in person, might not be a bad idea, just in case.
WHERE: Gerrymandering happens all over, but Georgia has had some especially suspect redistricting as of late.
WHAT: The drawing of political districts for political gain. Areas with high proportions of minority groups, for example, can be split up to dilute the political influence of people of color.
WHO IT AFFECTS: Usually whoever’s not in power, but in states like Georgia, where mostly conservative legislatures can now redraw districts without federal approval, the fear is that gerrymandering will be used to blunt the political influence of communities of color.
HOW TO BEAT IT: Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done that will be immediately helpful. However, in some places, such as California, laws have been passed to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians, eliminating gerrymandering and its potentially discriminatory affects. Support for similar such reforms could be a long-term solution.
Photo from The Bell Towers.