Emerson students planning to vote in this year’s election may be rejected from Massachusetts voting booths. A new legislation that requires government-issued identification will make it harder for college students to vote in November.
Seven states have already passed laws requiring strict photo ID to vote, and Massachusetts is following this lead along with nine other states. Republicans have gone after Wisconsin with particular force. They are allowing student IDs, but enforcing criteria which not one Wisconsin college or university ID meets. Texas, on the other hand, allows people to vote with a gun license but not with a student ID.
Students aren’t the only citizens affected by these new regulations. The Voting Rights Institute notes that 18 percent of young Americans, 19 percent of Latino Americans, 25 percent of African Americans, and 20 percent of Asian Americans — or 11 percent of all Americans — lack government-issued photo ID.
Since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the GOP has worked incessantly to change rules governing our elections. New laws aimed at those more likely to vote Democratic have passed in over 40 states and are advancing in 12. New laws include, but are not limited to: cutting early voting, repealing election day registration, creating citizenship challenges, changing the electoral college, and changing photo identification standards.
In an attempt to explain these new laws, Republicans claim that America has a tremendous problem with voting fraud. They turned a blind eye to the investigation conducted by the Bush administration, which found virtually zero cases of intentional voter fraud. A 2007 New York Times news story following the five-year investigation points out that, “Many of those charged appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.” Voter fraud is clearly a non-issue in the United States, yet Republican leaders nationwide continue wasting valuable time inventing laws devoted to the alleged issue.
While the GOP may not admit it, a 2011 New York Times editorial scoffed, “Of course the Republicans passing these laws never acknowledge their real purpose, which is to turn away from the polls people who are more likely to vote Democratic.” But Republicans like Paul Weyrich, the father of the right-wing movement and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and Moral Majority, don’t mind letting their secret slip: “I don’t want everybody to vote… As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Another legislative effort led by the GOP are the cuts on early voting. The Voting Rights Institute notes the positives: “Early voting expands opportunities to vote, enabling people who can’t get to the polls on Election Day to make their voices heard.” Republicans have already decreased early voting periods in six states and are targeting early voting on Sundays in Florida and Ohio. The Voting Rights Institute took a closer look at the 2008 Presidential Election in Florida and found that “African Americans represented 13 percent of all Florida voters but 31 percent of the total voters on the final Sunday of early voting.”
These laws undoubtedly impede upon our rights as Americans. The right to vote is a part of freedom, of democracy — the key to America. How can a country so deeply affiliated with opportunity allow its politicians to cheat? Rather than seeing the importance of working together toward goals of substance and importance, Republicans have done everything possible to fight unity, the namesake of our country.
We belong to the same public. We are young Americans, we are Emerson students, and we are voters. If nothing else, we must keep ourselves updated on the status of legislation in Massachusetts so we do not find ourselves unable to vote in November. We must spread the word to the unaware. And if we care deeply, we must take a stance against those who disregard justice.