Voter ID and Democracy’s Neighborhood


[Image courtesy of Hispanically Speaking News]

Not that it ever really went away, but voter ID is back in the news this week.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech this week in which he emphasized that the Justice Department would be aggressive in its “thorough but fair” review of new election laws under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The speech has encouraged foes of voter ID, who have been calling on DOJ to reject new laws in South Carolina and Texas.

In Wisconsin, both the ACLU and the NAACP are suing the state over its new ID law, claiming it represents a poll tax on voters and violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Today, though I want to highlight a different view of the issue that appears as an editorial in the Wausau (WI) Daily Herald. The editorial is largely aimed at lauding the state Government Accountability Board (GAB) for its public information campaign and reiterating the paper’s opposition to Wisconsin’s new ID requirements. But the editorial concludes with an observation and call to action that really struck a chord with me and one I wanted to share with you:

When it comes to getting information out about voter ID requirements, we each can play a role. Think of the people in your own life who might be without a valid state ID, and reach out to them directly. Maybe you can help them with a ride to the Division of Motor Vehicles or assistance in wrangling their paperwork.

It’s not too soon to start reaching out to others in this way. In fact, if you wait until just before next year’s elections it could be too late.

This message – voters as neighbors, neighbors as voters – is really powerful … even as the voter ID and other wars rage around us, there are still opportunities to reach out to people we know (and maybe some we don’t know) to help them be a part of democracy’s neighborhood.

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