Voting is a fundamental political right and an essential component of the concept of full citizenship. The Supreme Court captured this notion in 1964 when it evaluated voting maps that diluted the voting strength of urban residents. In the decision calling for apportionment of districts with similar populations based on Equal Protection grounds, Chief Justice Warren wrote that the unimpaired exercise of one's voting rights is, "preservative of other basic civil and political rights." That is, voting helps people achieve greater civic, social, and political inclusion in the United States.
That broad notion of citizenship is at the heart of why Texas' new restrictive voter I.D. law, which creates an unnecessary, sometimes burdensome new barrier to voting by requiring voters to provide photo identification before casting a ballot, should make make everyone's blood boil. Appreciation of that concept of citizenship is why we care so much about Texas' Voter ID laws here at BOR, and why folks like Edward Garris have been devoting their time to cover the ongoing Voter ID trials.
Another reason we focus on Texas' Voter ID law here at BOR is that it demonstrates, with unusual clarity, that Republicans in Texas don't understand, and perhaps don't care about, that concept of citizenship and the ongoing struggle members of our most vulnerable communities face in their fight for social, civic, and political inclusion. Perhaps because they have neither lived nor studied that struggle, today's conservative legislators are unable to contextualize voter ID laws, and see them for what they actually are: the latest in a long line of policies and practices that treat minorities and poor people as second class citizens. They are a continuation of Jim Crow voter suppression and poll taxes.
Cuentame, a project of Brave New Foundation, calls Voter ID laws what they are in a great new video released last week. Check it out below.
Kudos Cuentame for the great coverage of issues that impact Latinos and the public at large.
I've never been absolutely certain where ignorance ends and malevolence begins with Republicans at the Capitol. It is clear that the Lone Star State does not have a serious problem with voter fraud, though. Allegations of voter fraud were inflated during hearings on Voter ID here in Texas, as they were in the rest of the nation. One particularly egregious example of dishonety came from Harris Count's former Tax Assessor-Collector, Paul Bettencourt. He is proven to have lied to the Texas House Elections Committee about "381 ironclad" cases of voter fraud that turned out not to be so ironclad during voter ID hearings in 2008.
All of this demonstrates that Republicans in Texas passed a law they knew would disenfranchise voters for pure political gain. That is evil. Not Pol Pot evil, but evil nonetheless.