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Photo ID Laws: Welcome Back, Jim Crow?

Where is the righteous indignation among black Americans at being portrayed as helpless children?

by
La Shawn Barber

Bio

September 22, 2011 - 12:00 am

Only Democrats can get away with implying that blacks are too lazy, ignorant, or stupid to go down to the local DMV and obtain a driver’s license or non-driver photo ID card.

Voter ID laws, designed to protect the integrity of the voting process, have been a hot topic in recent years. Politico reports that so-called civil rights groups have accused Texas Governor Rick Perry of signing a “strict” voter ID law that discriminates against blacks and Hispanics. Under the previous law, voters were allowed to show documents like utilities bills, bank statements, and paycheck stubs if they didn’t have photo ID. The new law takes effect on January 1.

Is the Texas law discriminatory because it applies only to blacks and Hispanics? Or does the local DMV bar these groups from applying for driver’s licenses or non-driver photo ID cards? Is their application fee higher than everyone else’s? Perhaps blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately averse to posing for bad photos that add 20 pounds.

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, said in a statement that the Texas law is “part of the largest legislative effort to turn back the clock on voting rights in our nation in over a century.” Dianis, who is black, alluded to America’s favorite corpse, Jim Crow, a system of government-approved racial segregation.

You may recall from history books that certain states tried to prevent black Americans from exercising their right to vote. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous implied, with a straight face, that requiring blacks to show photo ID was akin to requiring them to pay poll taxes or take literacy tests. The president of a national organization purportedly concerned about the dignity of “colored people” perpetuates the idea that grown black men and women can’t and shouldn’t be expected to get off their butts, go to the DMV, and obtain a government-issued photo ID (for free in some cases).

Even more bizarre, black lawmakers in Georgia walked out of the Capitol in 2005 after their colleagues passed a voter ID law. By staging such a spectacle, they sent the message that blacks  are not responsible enough to fulfill state requirements like everybody else.

According to a study from the New York University School of Law, reports the Washington Post, a quarter of black voters don’t have a valid government-issued photo ID, compared with eight percent of whites. But a racial disparity is not evidence of racial discrimination. There are no laws preventing these voters from obtaining a valid government-issued photo ID.

Voter ID law opponents in certain states can cite Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to support their claims, no matter how outrageous. The provision requires states like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina to seek U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approval, or “preclearance,” to change voting procedures. In 1975, Congress added Texas to the list of states covered by the provision. A utility district in Texas that came into existence in 1986 challenged the law and contended that after over 40 years of racial progress, the preclearance requirement is based on outdated evidence. The court declined to rule on the constitutionality of Section 5, but held that the utility district was eligible to apply for a preclearance exemption.

In their accusations against Governor Perry, the ACLU and other leftist groups submitted a 31-page letter (PDF) to the DOJ, which reads in part:

[V]oters of color are disproportionately less likely to possess the required forms of identification and do not have the same access to those forms of identification (or to the “free” election identification certificate, for that matter) as their White counterparts. Under the benchmark plan, an elector may vote after presenting his/her voter registration certificate or, in lieu of that, another form of non-photographic identification. Because the Act prohibits a voter from voting unless s/he presents a photo ID, voters of color will not be able to exercise their franchise to the same degree as White voters and their voting strength will be diluted.

What is preventing these “voters of color” from acquiring a photo ID card? In what way are they different from their “White counterparts”? These are the kind of questions every black American should be asking, not just a handful that includes me. Where is the righteous indignation at being portrayed as helpless children? The only people who should take issue with voter ID laws are those who intend to perpetrate a fraud. No responsible, law-abiding citizen should have any problem with such laws.

It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out why liberals engage in such hyperbole and condescension. Ninety percent of black voters choose Democrats, and if portraying them as eternally oppressed victims of racism and bias gets them to the polls, so be it.

La Shawn Barber is a freelance writer who blogs at http://lashawnbarber.com.
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