What in the world could Arizona’s challenge of the Voting Rights Act and the requirement passed in 12 states that citizens show government-issued picture ID’s before voting have in common? The answer is simple: Both are being used by white racists to impede people of color’s right to vote and nullify their vote’s impact.
One tactic is the removal of the Federal Government oversight of the often tainted state electoral process. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson’s anti-racist agenda. It outlawed poll taxes and other obstacles that impeded people of color’s access to the ballot box.
Arizona has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of parts of the Voting Rights Act. The parts in question require states that did not meet certain requirements in 1972 to secure federal approval for any state legislation or change that could affect voting. Arizona is one of the states.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who filed the lawsuit, said that the original criteria for pre-approval are no longer relevant or constitutional, and Arizona no longer needs the federal government’s scrutiny. “The historical Voting Rights Act was meant to overcome horrendous voting discrimination that occurred in the South,” Horne said. “We are being severely penalized for something that happened in 1972 that was corrected in 1975.”
Many Mexican American legislators disagree. They argue that federal government oversight is still necessary in Arizona. They say that the Department of Justice was forced to intervene on numerous occasions, as was the case ten years ago when it mandated a redrawing of proposed legislative boundaries that would have put Mexican American voters at a disadvantage. Rep. Richard Miranda states their current goal succinctly:
We are asking the Independent Redistricting Commission not to dilute the impact of minority voters.
A second subterfuge pertains to the requirement that citizens show government-issued ID’s before they can vote. In an August 26 New York Times Op-EdJohn Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia, discusses a law passed by 12 Republican state legislatures this year. The law requires “that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth.” It so happens that as many as 25 percent of African American voters lack adequate identification.
Conservative supporters of the law allege that this regulation is necessary to forestall voter impersonation. However, there is no evidence that voter impersonation is a widespread problem. When the state of Indiana defended its picture ID provision before the Supreme Court, it could not produce evidence of even one instance of the offense in Indiana. Similarly, in the last ten years Kansas, another state that passed the legislation, experienced a larger number of alleged U.F.O. sightings than claims of voter impersonation.
I believe that if these white attacks fail, more will follow. Racism is a tough nut to crack.