Voter ID: Dressed to Suppress

Voter ID: Dressed to Suppress


In the lead-up to the 2012 elections, self-serving state politicians across the nation are getting dressed to suppress the vote.  They are donning legislation and executive orders that are fine tailored to restrict the voting rights of communities of color, middle class Americans, women, and students in order to elevate the interests of the 1%.

The NAACP’s new report, “Defending Democracy:  Confronting 21st Century Barriers to Voting Rights in America”, reveals how and why these politicians want to refashion the law. The report shows that the landscape of presidential elections changed in 2008 with bigger changes to come that don’t favor the sponsors of voter suppression tactics.

The legacy of the 2008 election is record turnout for minority voters and young voters across the country.  According to the Pew Research Center, which compared turnout rates in 2004 to those in 2008, the African American rate increased nearly five percent to 65.3%, nearly matching the rate for white eligible voters.  Participation levels for Hispanics, Asian Americans, and college-aged voters also revealed increases of 2.7%, 2.4% and 1.8%, respectively.

Add in the projected growth of minority groups from the 2010 census, and it becomes clear why some unethical state legislators have felt an urgent need to cloak themselves in voter suppression measures.

In 2011 alone, 34 state legislatures have introduced voter suppression bills, with laws already passing in 14 of those states and pending in eight.  Our report shows that each and every piece of legislation would disproportionately impact the voting rights of people of color, working women, blue color workers, students, seniors and immigrants.

In many states, the attack takes the form of a government photo identification requirement at the voting booth.  Despite studies indicating that someone is far more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate someone at a polling place, legislators in these states tout the “voting fraud” myth as a necessary solution to a nonexistent problem.

Other states have tried to tamp down voter turnout through the elimination of same-day registration and voting, significant cuts to early voting, Sunday voting restrictions on third-party voter registration drives, and ex-felon voter disenfranchisement.  And in anticipation of a November chill, many states added two or more of these restrictive layers for a full suppression ensemble.

As you would expect, outfitting each state with coordinating suppression attire does not come cheap.  But, thanks to the bulging bankrolls of designers like the Koch brothers, several states have been able to implement these invidious laws.  Through their financial support of the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity, Charles and David Koch have convinced extremist legislators in several states to propose and pass the discriminatory voter ID bills. The Kochs have also directly contributed an additional quarter million dollars to candidates who support the voter suppression legislation.

Like so many modern style trends, the efforts to disenfranchise minority voters have a retro feel – in the case, harkening back to the 1890s.  Back then, in the dawn of Jim Crow, the look was white robes, attack dogs, and public lynchings.  Today’s voter intimidation style is far more sophisticated, yet the result is the same – legislators attack, intimidate, and block the vote.

While suppression stylists are getting a makeover, we have some new suits of our own.  We are taking this fight to courthouses, statehouses, and the streets.  Civil rights groups, including the NAACP, ACLU, and League of Women Voters and others, have filed complaints with the Department of Justice to block the implementation of these restrictions under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of discrimination such as Texas and South Carolina to pre-clear all changes to voting rights with the Department of Justice.

And on December 10th – International Human Rights Day – a coalition of thousands of civil, human, and labor rights supporters will take to the streets of New York City to stand for freedom and show off the style of a nation that will not allow these attacks on the constitutional right to vote to continue.

Stefanie Brown is National Field Director for the NAACP. She can be reached via Twitter @stefbrown33



  1. In reading this I have to reflect: Is this a foreign county they're talking about? It's not? This is AMERICA? How much more can the middle and lower classes take? Now, they have no rights to vote? Really? Is the GOP's catch-phrase "Win-at-any-cost?" It's time for REAL Americans to stand up to the 1% and demand that their country be returned to them. I am so proud of all those strong and couregeous people that are making a difference by being part of the "Occupy" movement. In my heart I am with you.

  2. The Supreme Court upheld Voter ID laws as constitutional in 2008 (Crawford v. Marion). In the 6-3 majority opinion, liberal Justice Stevens pointed out that "flagrant examples [of voter fraud] have been documented throughout this nation's history by respected historians and journalists," cited "Indiana's own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago," and concluded that for the few voters without ID, the burden of obtaining one "does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote."

    In fact, most recent cases of voter fraud have involved Democrats (for example, in Mississippi, NAACP Executive Committee member Lessadolla Sowers was convicted of 10 counts of absentee ballot fraud on April 2011).

    As for comparing Voter ID to "Jim Crow" laws, even DNC Chair Debbie Schultz had to retract that ridiculous assertion after PolitiFact busted her claim as totally FALSE.

    But you are correct about one thing – minority (and Democrat) voter participation did increase in 2008, including in states with Voter ID laws like GA (6%) and IN (8%).

  3. If you don't have a driver's license you'll have to get an acceptable ID from the state.
    In order to do that you'll need to get a certified copy of your birth certificate from state or local vital statistics office. These are NOT free. The cost varies from state to state.
    Then you'll need to find a ride to take your ID to the DMV office
    Once there you'll fill out the proper documentation, have your photo taken …and again, you will be required to pay another fee for the Identification Card. These are NOT free. The cost varies from state to state.
    So if you are poor, homeless, a college student, handicapped, unemployed..and don't have " the right kind" of ID my guess is that you will decide that "VOTING IS JUST TOO COMPLICATED AND TOO EXPENSIVE"

  4. What does early voting, same day registration, third party registration drives and States requiring that registration forms be turned in within 24 hours have to do with voter fraud? Absolutely nothing. What you have is a group of very wealthy Un-American rich Republicans trying to turn America into a Fascist Country. This is the only explanation that is viable.

  5. Actually the ones claimed to be impacted have to already have id to get any form of government assistance, retain employment, get a bus pass, etc. So this law is not "suppressing" anyone's right to vote. How many posting here can cash a check without id? Get a bus ticket on Amtrak, get a job, without a picture id? The "poor" receive assistance, so they have id, any minority with a job or receiving assistance has to have id, so who is left?