Voter ID Proponents are Ready to Battle

Will a recent Supreme Court decision help aid voter suppression?

more likely at the hands of election officials, charges Hilary Shelton, who heads the NAACP’s Washington bureau. “As helpful and innocuous as photo IDs sound, they are really very troubling and have a history of being utilized in discriminatory and racially disparate ways. Most people think they’re helpful in preventing fraud at the polls, but frankly, most fraud that occurs at polling places are actually committed by election officials,” Shelton says.

As examples, he cites officials throwing out Florida ballots in 2004; registration forms trashed in Nevada in 2004; and a case in Ohio in which its secretary of state rejected registration forms because they were not the right weight of paper. “These were election officials, not someone going to the polls trying to pretend to be someone they’re not. In 2006, Chicago, photo IDs were an option, but when African American voters were asked for ID and didn’t have it, they were sent away; if white Americans didn’t, all was forgiven and they were allowed to vote. This also happened in Florida in 2000 and in 2004. So, photo IDs, in effect, become nothing more than a ruse to discount eligible voters,” he adds.

Although Bositis thinks it’s difficult to predict how many voters may be adversely affected by voter ID laws this fall, in part, he says, because Republicans do not control many of the states that will help determine the outcome of the election, Campbell believes it’s about 10%, which she says can sway the election one way or another, particularly because of the increase in voter participation this year.

Shelton hopes that despite the Supreme Court decision, his and other organizations can band together to strike down voter ID laws. “The Supreme Court said it’s legal, not mandatory. We must still work to convince states that photo IDs are not helpful, are potentially discriminatory, and have proven to be so in the past. In the meantime, the NAACP and other groups are working hard to make sure that the maximum number of people who can participate in the electoral process have everything they need to cast a vote and have it counted,” he says.

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