Banner View: Voter suppression laws stall democratic process

America, it’s time to fight for your right to vote.

During the last legislative cycle, states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Carolina now require voters to show unexpired, government-issued identification before voting, making it more difficult for students and minorities to cast their ballots on election day. Under the myth of widespread voter fraud, GOP lawmakers are disenfranchising millions of eligible voters in order to meet their political goals.

A new study released by civil rights group the Advancement Project estimated at least 10 million Hispanic voters could be disenfranchised by new voting laws.

Voter suppression laws and policies threaten to relegate eligible Latino voters to second-class citizenship and impede their ability to participate fully in American democracy,” said the report. “Like African Americans, Latinos have experienced decreased access and correspondingly lower levels of voter registration and participation than non-Hispanic Whites.”

Other laws intentionally make it harder for college students to cast their ballots. Texas allows you to vote with a gun license, but not with a college ID. South Carolina explicitly prohibits voting with a school ID, while other states like Wisconsin allow them, but have such strict ID guidelines that no college currently meets them.

Some state legislation has all but stopped voter registration drives. Six states have imposed new restrictions on voter registration this year, including California and Florida. In the Sunshine State, laws requiring drives to hand in forms to the state board of election within 48 hours, as well as heavy fines for late turn-ins, caused the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote to stop working in the state and file a lawsuit against the restrictions.

The mostly GOP-led supporters of these laws claim they help stem an supposed national epidemic of voter fraud. However, evidence of widespread election fraud is shaky at best, and virtually non-existent in many instances. In Florida, where the registration law was enacted one day after it passed under an emergency statute for “an immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare,” only 31 suspected cases of voter fraud were received by state law enforcement, and only three arrests were made.

Across the country, investigations into voter fraud yielded similar results. A 2002 to 2007 investigation by the Justice Department failed to find a single instance of voter impersonation, and many of the 86 people convicted of fraud were former felons or immigrants unaware of their ineligibility.

However, the political motivations behind this laws are becoming increasingly clear. After the passing of the Pennsylvania ID law, state house speaker Mike Turzai listed accomplishments of his party, including “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: Done.”

Is this really the rationale behind behind discouraging millions from exercising their Constitutional rights? A dirty political power-play to grab a few more swing states?

It’s time for the U.S. Court system and the American public to realize what is at stake. These measures to stifle the electorate are unconstitutional, and frankly, impede upon the progress of creating well-informed and involved citizens.

We have the privilege in this nation of being able to shape our national policy and participate in our government, and it’s time to fight for it.

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