Photo ID Laws: Welcome Back, Jim Crow?

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.