Fight to Vote: Don't wait for the courts to guarantee access to the polls.

Beverly Moore helps her grandson Johnah Karman-Moore vote for the first time at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 4, during the midterm elections. (CNS photo/Mark Lyons, EPA)

A U.S. district court last month upheld a 2013 North Carolina law that ostensibly targets voter fraud by requiring photo identification at the polls, eliminating same-day registration and reducing early-voting periods. Opponents had argued that the changes disproportionately burdened low-income and minority voters who lacked driver’s licenses, but Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled that in the absence of “official discrimination” the law was valid. Unless a higher court reverses the North Carolina decision, we may see more efforts to make it more difficult and time-consuming to vote.

We should be encouraging citizen participation at all levels of American government. If photo I.D.’s are required, they should be easy to obtain without a fee that essentially serves as a poll tax. But it is notable that turnout among black voters in North Carolina actually increased in 2014, the first election when the voter I.D. law was in effect. This does not justify the law, but it does show that well-publicized efforts to limit turnout can have the opposite effect of making people more determined to vote—at least in the short term.

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It is also a reminder that, as is the case with freedom of speech, the best response to bad politics is more politics. With no consensus on the practical meaning of the “right to vote” in the Constitution, we cannot wait for the courts to guarantee equal access to the polls. Voter advocacy groups must propose their own laws to break down barriers to political participation, and they must ensure that any new “anti-fraud” measures do not discourage citizens from making their voices heard.

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Rosemary Hyman
2 years 5 months ago
The North Carolina Voter ID Bill did not take effect until 2016.
Joseph J Dunn
2 years 5 months ago
The Editors raise a number of concerns about the possibility that Voter ID laws are "efforts to make it more difficult and time-consuming to vote", and protest that "if voter IDs are required they should be easy to obtain without a fee that essentially serves as a poll tax." Editors will be glad to see that the info at this website provided by the State of North Carolina (see especially the extensive FAQ section) http://voterid.nc.gov. address these concerns, and many others, in a thoughtful way. Maybe that is why the federal judge upheld the law?

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