The crushing burden of Voter ID on people of color


Not everybody lives in the mainstream:

Nearly three dozen states require voters to show identification at the polls. And almost half of those states want photo IDs. But there are millions of eligible voters who don't have them. A 2012 survey estimated that 7 percent of American adults lack a government-issued photo ID.

While some organizations have sued to overturn these laws, a nonprofit organization called Spread The Vote has taken a different tack: It helps people without IDs get them. And people over 50 years of age have presented some of their biggest challenges.

Just a quick personal anecdote: when we had to move my mom into a nursing home, it was right at the beginning of a primary early voting period. When she asked me if I would take her to vote, my brain was pushed into overdrive as I tried to figure out "how" to make it happen. Yes, she could change her voter registration thanks to same-day voting. But her driver's license still had her home (house) address. So I would need to take her to the DMV and get that fixed before doing anything else. When I told her that, she just said, "Forget about it, that's too much." I briefly contemplated just taking her to vote under her old, no-longer-valid registration. But then I remembered pricks like Jay DeLancey and McCrory's goons who challenged voters all over the state, and didn't even mention the idea to my mom. Understand, this is somebody who already had ID and voted regularly. A lot of folks are further behind:

Studies show that the people who are most likely to be prevented from voting by ID laws are not only low income, but also African-American or another racial minority. That has been true of the roughly 600 people that Spread The Vote has worked with.

Another statistic about the people the group has helped: About 40 percent of them are older than 50. Calvin said those voters often present special challenges.

"If you are elderly and you were born in a rural area [or] born during Jim Crow, you may not have ever gotten a birth certificate."

The current voter suppression bill pushed by Republican Senators sets aside $5 million to help people obtain Voter ID, but that is nothing more than lip service. It includes "a" vehicle to supposedly go to people's homes and create an ID. But what if they don't have a copy of their birth certificate handy?



Birth certificates

"If you are elderly and you were born in a rural area [or] born during Jim Crow, you may not have ever gotten a birth certificate."

Bingo. Republicans know this.

Anyone who has dived into genealogy research for someone African-American can vouch for this. If you're trying to track and ancestor born during or before Jim Crow, it can be difficult. You may not find a birth certificate on file or even a newspaper announcement about the birth. And, due to privacy restrictions, you can only use census records from 1930 or before. If you're lucky, someone in your family might have a Bible or a church record with the birth recorded, but often not.

I'm white and my family comes from a rural area of NC. There's only one of my gradparents that had a birth certificate on file. One grandfather's birth wasn't recorded with any kind of birth certificate and was only documented with notations in a small notebook kept by a county doctor and found stuffed in a wall during a remodel of the county courthouse.

My father had to have a birth certificate created for him when he enlisted in the Navy in the early 1950s - his birth was only recorded in a family Bible.

There are professionals who make their living tracking down this kind of information and documentation and it can take months to do it.

If you're going to require Voter ID, you have to foot the bill for this kind of research at no cost to the voter. Otherwise, you've created a Poll Tax.