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Does the requirement of a photo ID violate the Voting Rights Act?
by Robert Randle
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On the 83rd anniversary of MLK’s birthday, Associated Press reporter Jeffrey Collins had an article in The Tacoma News Tribune on Tuesday, January 17, 2012, mentioning about a throng of African-Americans who surrounded the South Carolina capitol to voice opposition to the state’s voter ID laws, which was rejected by the U.S. Justice Department last month. What is at issue, critics say, is that the new law is “discriminatory” towards African-Americans and poor Whites; and is especially meant to suppress the turnout and participation of Blacks in the voting process, undermining the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and 1966. In order to better determine if requiring a photo identification is “unequal” treatment and a violation of the U.S. Constitution, therefore it is necessary to get a historical perspective about the evolution of the voting experience in America.

When the Constitution was written, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the nation's population) had the vote. Over the past two centuries, though, the term "government by the people" has become a reality. During the early 1800s, states gradually dropped property requirements for voting. Later, groups that had been excluded previously gained the right to vote. Other reforms made the process fairer and easier. Poll taxes enacted in Southern states between 1889 and 1910 had the effect of disenfranchising many blacks as well as poor whites, because payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voting. By the 1940s some of these taxes had been abolished, and in 1964 the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution disallowed the poll tax as a prerequisite for voting in federal elections. In 1966 this prohibition was extended to all elections by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that such a tax violated the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

1790 Only white male adult property-owners have the right to vote.
1810 Last religious prerequisite for voting is eliminated.
1850 Property ownership and tax requirements eliminated by 1850. Almost all adult white males could vote.
1855 Connecticut adopts the nation's first literacy test for voting. Massachusetts follows suit in 1857. The tests were implemented to discriminate against Irish-Catholic immigrants.
1870 The 15th Amendment is passed. It gives former slaves the right to vote and protects the voting rights of adult male citizens of any race.
1889 Florida adopts a poll tax. Ten other southern states will implement poll taxes.
1890 Mississippi adopts a literacy test to keep African Americans from voting. Numerous other states—not just in the south—also establish literacy tests. However, the tests also exclude many whites from voting. To get around this, states add grandfather clauses that allow those who could vote before 1870, or their descendants, to vote regardless of literacy or tax qualifications.
1957 The first law to implement the 15th amendment, the Civil Rights Act, is passed. The Act set up the Civil Rights Commission—among its duties is to investigate voter discrimination.
1964 The 24th Amendment bans the poll tax as a requirement for voting in federal elections.
1965 The Voting Rights Act protects the rights of minority voters and eliminates voting barriers such as the literacy test. The Act is expanded and renewed in 1970, 1975, and 1982.
1966 The Supreme Court, in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, eliminates the poll tax as a qualification for voting in any election. A poll tax was still in use in Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia.
1966 The Court upholds the Voting Rights Act in South Carolina v. Katzenbach.
1970 Literacy requirements are banned for five years by the 1970 renewal of the Voting Rights Act. At the time, eighteen states still have a literacy requirement in place. In Oregon v. Mitchell, the Court upholds the ban on literacy tests, which is made permanent in 1975. Judge Hugo Black, writing the court's opinion, cited the "long history of the discriminatory use of literacy tests to disenfranchise voters on account of their race" as the reason for their decision.
2003 Federal Voting Standards and Procedures Act require states to streamline registration, voting, and other election procedures.

Read more: poll tax — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/poll+tax#ixzz1jluxV0rD
Read more: U.S. Voting Rights http://www.infoplease.com/timelines/voting.html#ixzz1jm6rkwX1
Read more: U.S. Voting Rights http://www.infoplease.com/timelines/voting.html#ixzz1jm6RbQJ1

The recurring word in The Fifteenth Amendment as well as Twenty-fourth Amendment is “abridged,” which has the meaning of to weaken or take away and it is yet to be proven that such a requirement is in any way to be construed as an attempt to disenfranchise any ethnic, religious or social class/group of their rights under the Constitution. In fact, it could be argued that this procedure is in streamlining the voting process by discouraging fraud and proving the person’s citizenship and eligibility to vote; which would seem to be the intended objective of the 2003 Federal Voting Standards and Procedures Act. It seems reasonable to conclude that every legal and naturalized citizen of the United States, regardless of income, social status, level of education or any other consideration, ought to have on their person at all times [if possible] some kind of photo identification. To wit: any allegation to the contrary, no matter how passionate the argument, is without merit and should be rejected. As of this writing, Kansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin passed voter ID legislation in 2011. Texas has pending legislation before the Justice Department and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vowed to fight the Justice department in Federal Court over rejection of their voter identification laws.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
January 17, 2012

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