A report that was released on Monday by the Advancement Project shows that a series of new policies requiring proof of citizenship and photo identification may prevent up to 10 million Latino voters from casting ballots in November. This report examines the effect of the three types of restrictions we are seeing in the current election cycle: citizenship based voter purges, proof of citizenship, and voter ID laws.
Citizenship voter purges are occurring in 16 states, including key swing states such at Colorado and Florida. There are some 5.5 million registered Latino voters in these 16 citizenship purge states. Additionally, there are over 1.1 million naturalized immigrants from Latin American countries in these states. The problem with the citizenship purges is that when many of these immigrants applied for driver’s licenses, they indicated that they were immigrants. Even though these people have taken the oath of citizenship, they may have not gone back to the department of motor vehicles to correct their driver’s license to reflect their current status as naturalized citizens.
While the citizenship purges definitely impact Latinos, they also threaten to leave naturalized Asians and Blacks off of the voter registration rolls. According to the report, “In the 16 states pursuing citizenship purges, Latinos and other communities of color comprise a large and disproportionate percentage of the naturalized citizens who are eligible to vote but may be improperly targeted for purges. According to federal Census data, in 2006 to 2010, there were more than 1.1 million Latino naturalized citizens; 930,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander naturalized citizens; and 460,000 Black naturalized citizens…More than 75% of the total naturalized citizens in these 16 states were people of color. During the same five-year period, Latino naturalized citizens made up 51% of all naturalized citizens in the state of Florida and 62% of naturalized citizens in New Mexico—two of the states that are pursuing citizenship purges.”
Documentary proof of citizenship has been around since 2004 when Arizona passed Proposition 200 requiring prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship. This can be in the form of a certified birth certificate, a passport, or naturalization papers. In April, a federal court of appeals struck down Arizona’s proof of citizenship voter registration law saying that it violated the National Voter Registration Law. But thousands of voters had already been removed from Arizona’s registrar records. The problem with proof of citizenship laws is that they impact the poor. If a voter cannot find his birth certificate or doesn’t have a passport, he will have to take steps to get one. People who are more transient may be less likely to have this documentation readily available. Latinos have higher rates of poverty and are more likely to rely on public transportation to get to government offices to obtain their records; the additional burden of traveling to obtain the documentation for those who don’t have it readily available is taxing.
The voter ID laws limit the types of identification that can be presented when attempting to vote. Veteran’s ID cards, student ID cards, or out of state or expired IDs tend to not be acceptable in states with strict voter ID laws on the books. Obtaining a new ID costs money and time, especially if the prospective voter doesn’t have his documents handy.
“It is estimated that 16 percent of Latinos do not possess a requisite photo identification compared to six percent of non-Hispanic Whites. Due to the invalidation of Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before 2010, stateside Puerto Ricans face a double burden: first, they have to obtain a new Puerto Rican birth certificate; then they must then use this certificate to apply for an official state photo ID. Mexican Americans and other Latinos also experience the harsh impact of these restrictive photo ID laws.”
With less than two months before the election, organizations such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), Latino Justice – Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) in addition to The Advancement Project are working to ensure more open access to the voting booths across the country.