Representation and voting rights have long been central to the foundation of the American government. Since the first day our ancestors touched down on the East coast, there has been a struggle for the right to have input on the government’s actions from one group or another.
From women to people of color, group after group have rallied together to fight to join the exclusive, white, property owning male voting group. And every group succeeded.
But with the recent announcement that the Supreme Court would allow Texas polling booths to enforce a voter identification law this November, the sanctity of the American voting process will be tainted, as an entire state takes one giant leap back in time.
Which is precisely when Texas passed a law which makes it so any Texas citizen who does not possess a valid identification card will be denied the right to vote. According to the U.S. Justice Department that means approximately 600,000 Texans — mostly African-Americans and Latinos — will not be able to exercise their right to vote during the critical Texas gubernatorial race next month.
If these laws were to spread, and I assure you that they will now that the Supreme Court has set a precedent, the NAACP suggests that 25 percent of the African-American population will be denied the right to vote across the nation.
Previously, states in the Jim Crow South used poll taxes and literacy tests to keep American citizens from exercising their right to vote. That may not sound like blatant racism to you, but those laws specifically hit the uneducated and poor, which at that time were mostly racial minorities.
Those laws dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which worked until 2013 to fight the very voter ID law that Texas is using. That was until the Supreme Court cited the Act’s progress since it took effect as reason to do away with it.
It’s just plain stupid of us to deny the impact that these laws will have on our country. If 25 percent of black voters and 16 percent of Latinos cannot vote for their representation on election day, our Congress will easily slide back into a bleached-white, oppressive state.
We naturally feel safest and most comfortable among those with whom we share commonalities. When white male voters had the right to vote, they voted for similar men to be in positions of power. When women gained the right to vote, we voted for women to be in positions of power. We are aware that those who are similar to ourselves will look out for us the best.
A well-off, white male who has never had to go months without valid identification because they don’t have time or money to spend at a DMV renewing their license won’t understand the struggle of a single mother or African-American college student because they’ve never lived it. So it makes sense that they wouldn’t see the problem with requiring voter IDs.
Now you may be thinking, “But the sanctity of the American voting process is ruined by in-person voter fraud! We have to protect American Democracy!”
You can drop the faux-concern right now. Between 2000 and 2010, there were 10 reported cases of in-person voter fraud.
Compare that to the 600,000 Texans who lack IDs and will be denied their right to vote come Nov. 4, and we’ll see what’s really harming American democracy.
When we allow ourselves to deny the racial implications that laws which restrict access to voting rights, we are robbing ourselves of the chance of a truly equal American population. Equality starts on Nov. 4 when we cast a vote.
And if we aren’t all equal on paper, how can we ever expect to be equal as people?
Jana King is a 20-year-old communication studies junior from Ponchatoula, Louisiana. You can reach her on Twitter @jking_TDR.