Thousands of volunteers, celebrities, and organizations from across the country took to the streets on Tuesday to mark National Voter Registration Day, a coordinated effort geared toward registering millions of voters ahead of November’s 1,500 elections. But this year’s day of honoring America’s democratic process comes amid a wave of state-sanctioned initiatives that many feel roll back voting rights for low-income and minority populations.
Although black voter turnout was strong in 2012–outpacing every other demographic group for the first time in history–turnout tends to be dramatically lower in non-presidential years, and could be made worse by the growing number of state restrictions at the polls. Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, told BET that registering voters for the 2013 elections would be necessary to “send a message that we will not move backward and be silenced.”
Thirty states currently have laws in place requiring voters to show identification at the polls, (11 require photo ID,) according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and more look to be on the way.
Since the Supreme Court in June struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required certain states to get approval from the federal government on any changes made to voting laws, strict photo ID requirements in Mississippi and Texas no longer face roadblocks, and will likely be implemented in the near future. Alabama, Arkansas, and Virginia will become photo ID states in 2014. And North Carolina’s newly-signed photo ID requirement will go into effect in 2016.
Ohio may be next to join that growing list of photo ID states. Last week, Republican State Rep. John Becker introduced House Bill 269, a measure requiring Ohioans to show photo ID for in-person voting.
Becker said the purpose of the bill was to “discourage fraud” and “provide the most basic, common, and reasonable security for voting.” But Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner, who is running to be Ohio secretary of state, said the measure was nothing short of an “assault on the very fabric of our democracy.”
“This is un-American, what they are trying to do,” said Turner to MSNBC Tuesday. “As far as I am concerned, it is an all-out attack on people of color, on elderly people, and people who may be economically challenged.”
Becker said his bill takes into account people who are at or below the poverty level, and will allow for “free photo IDs for people who can’t afford to purchase one.” But Turner insists the bill will unduly burden the 938,642 Ohio adults that, according to Policy Matters Ohio, lack photo ID.
“Voter fraud is almost non-existent,” said Turner. “People don’t just show up on election day, trying to impersonate other people. It is a solution in search of a problem.”