[author: Aaron Kase]
The voter suppression laws being enacted in states around the country could have the cumulative effect of blocking the ballots of 10 million Latino citizens who could have otherwise legally voted, according to a new study.
The report, to be released today by the civil rights group Advancement Project, says, “Like African Americans, Latinos have experienced decreased access and correspondingly lower levels of voter registration and participation than non-Hispanic whites.”
There are 21 million Hispanic citizens over the age of 18 in the country, comprising about 10 percent of eligible voters and 8 percent of registered voters.
The disenfranchising rules come in three flavors:
Laws that require official government photo ID to cast a ballot
Voter roll purges of people that officials suspect are not American citizens
Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote
The voter ID laws enacted in various states place the burden on citizens to come up with various documents to obtain a government-issued ID card. Those might include social security cards, birth certificates, passports or other proof of identification that minorities, the elderly and the poor are less likely to have or be able to obtain. The requirements become particularly tricky for Latino immigrants who have obtained citizenship but might not be able to come up with all the required documents.
Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington are all attempting to purge “non-citizens” from their voter rolls. However, the methods used to determine citizenship are clumsy and often inaccurate. In Colorado and Florida, for example, officials tossed out registrations for any voters who were listed as immigrants on their driver’s license. However, the states failed to take into account, or deliberately ignored, people who became American citizens and then registered to vote without bothering to update their status on their license first.
“Naturalized citizens typically received their driver’s licenses when they were legal immigrants but before becoming naturalized citizens (and before registering to vote); therefore, this method generates lists of voters to be checked that targets naturalized citizens,” according to the Advancement Project Report.
Proof of Citizenship
Currently in Georgia, with several other states soon to join them, citizens must show a certified birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers in order to register to vote. The requirement seems reasonable at first; however it is unnecessary because there are already safeguards at the federal level against non-citizens registering. Requiring documents that might be lost, stolen or never issued in the first place, and which can be complicated and expensive to replace, has a drastic impact on Latino voters by setting a high bar to meet just to exercise their right to vote.
“At the end of the day, voting should be free, fair and accessible, and these barriers are standing in the way of an increasing demographic in this country,” Judith A. Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, told the Washington Post.
Do you think the new, stricter voter ID laws unfairly target minorities?