Supreme Court's Decision on Voter IDs is Akin to Voter Suppression
The NAACP is deeply alarmed by today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that would allow the utilization of photo identification at polling places in upcoming elections.
In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Indiana’s voter identification law, the most restrictive in the nation. The American Civil Liberties Union's case, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board — consolidated with Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita — was an appeal of two lower court decisions that upheld the state's law requiring voters to present government-issued photo IDs in order to vote. The ACLU, NAACP and others argued that the Indiana law creates an unconstitutional burden on voting rights.
“As the dissent notes, Indiana’s law will sadly but predictably have its greatest impact on tens of thousands of voters in any state who are poor, elderly, belong to racial minorities, or have disabilities,” said NAACP Interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo. “Many of whom are less likely to have or carry a photo ID or have the means to secure such an identification.”
“Mandated photo ID programs would create a modern-day poll tax for voters throughout the country,” said NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary Shelton. “This is both discriminatory and inconsistent with historic policies to eliminate poll taxes. Even if states provided everyone of voting age an ID at no charge, they could not guarantee that every poll worker would apply the mandates in a fully equitable manner.”
Such ID requirements also do nothing to address many of the actual, documented problems of election and voter fraud which continue to plague the electoral process and our democracy, including the improper purges of voters, distributing false information about when and where to vote, stuffing ballot boxes, and tampering with registration forms, most of which are perpetrated by corrupt election officials, not voters.
The NAACP asserts there are many other ways of establishing identification at polling places other than a photo ID, which creates potential for fraud among other difficulties. The NAACP urges state and local elected officials to consider the use of other methods that can be applied in a much more equitable manner at the polls, should identification be made mandatory in their jurisdiction
The Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of voter ID laws has broad national significance with the 2008 election underway. Indiana is one of more than 20 states that have passed restrictive voter ID laws, while other states are considering similar legislation. Voter ID measures are not unique to Indiana. The NAACP has successfully fought battles in Georgia and Missouri, for example, against unreasonable voter ID laws that are really designed to suppress the vote.
The added burden of requiring a government-approved photo identification before voting flies in the face of the Constitutionally guaranteed right to cast a free and unfettered ballot, as well as the intent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits state and local governments from establishing laws or policies which would have a discriminatory effect on the ability of certain groups to vote.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law in 1965. It is designed to prevent barriers to voting such as: intimidation, voter harassment, the poll tax, voting instructions printed only in English, literacy tests, racial gerrymandering and other tools of disenfranchisement. The act further guarantees that no federal, state or local government shall in any way impede or discourage people from registering to vote or voting because of their race or color.
Plaintiffs in the ACLU's case included the NAACP Indianapolis Branch as well as organizations representing the elderly, the homeless, and people with disabilities, along with two elected officials.
Founded in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its more than half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities and monitors of equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
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