By Rosemary Eng
The easy part of voting is voting. The hard part is getting through the minefield of obstacles on the way to the ballot box.
Besides having to deal with oftentimes confusing voter registration regulations, getting the right voter ID is becoming another problem as states rework ID requirements.
Too often it’s African Americans and Native Americans, the people who fought the bloodiest battles to gain voting rights in America, who have to struggle the hardest to meet differing government rules.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld a law that says North Dakota voter identification has to show a street address.
This effectively blocks numbers of North Dakota native peoples such as the Sioux and Chippewa from voting since people living on reservations do not have street addresses.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated, “Since the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t provide residential mail delivery in remote areas, many members of North Dakota’s Native American tribes list their mailing addresses, like P.O. boxes, on their IDs. And some also don’t have supplemental documentation, like a utility bill or bank statement, because of homelessness or poverty.”
P.O. boxes are not an accepted form of address for North Dakota voter ID.
Connor Maxwell, research associate for race and ethnicity policy, at the nonpartisan Center of American Progress, in Washington, D.C. says voter ID requirements are particularly difficult for people of color, the elderly and the poor. “One of the most insidious voter suppression tactics levied against the African American community is difficult voter ID requirements,” he says.
North Carolina legislators, he says, are working to put into place a constitutional amendment mandating voter ID for all residents. Voter ID is usually interpreted as meaning a drivers license because it shows a photo.
The requirement is onerous for African Americans in North Carolina urban centers because they mostly use buses and trains and are less likely to have drivers licenses, he says.
Maxwell says the voting-restrictive trend of demanding voter IDs seems to be growing.
New U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who supported the North Dakota voter ID residential address requirement, upheld a strict voter ID law which has been said affected some 80,000 registered voters, mostly minorities, in South Carolina, Maxwell reports. Kavanaugh served in 2012 on the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit and wrote that the voter ID law “was not discriminatory, despite evidence from the U.S. Department of Justice that it would disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters of color.
He also wrote that the law was not enacted for a discriminatory purpose, minimizing the fact that the bill’s author, state Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-SC), responded enthusiastically to a racially charged email from a constituent. That email stated that if African Americans were offered money to get IDs, it would “be like a swarm of bees going after a watermelon.”