Civil Rights Group: Voter ID Laws Could Disenfranchise Minorities
September 26, 2012

SAN DIEGO -- Voter suppression has been a hot topic this election season, as legislatures across the country have adopted laws imposing new requirements on voters. A new report by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group, says these provisions exist in 23 states, and could keep Latinos and other minorities from the polls this November.

The policies include laws requiring voters show photo identification at the polls or prove their citizenship when registering, as well as efforts to remove people believed to be non-citizens from voting lists.

"These policies are a threat to Latino voters. We need to really organize and fight back," said Penda Hair, the group’s co-director.

Advocacy groups like hers have opposed these policies, saying they impose a heavier burden on minorities like Latinos, who are more likely to live in poverty or lack the time or transportation required to get the documents they need. Voting list purges in Florida were discovered to have erroneously removed naturalized citizens from the voting rolls.

Those advocacy groups are in a kind of tug-of-war with groups they accuse of trying to suppress participation by minority voters.

Linda Paine founded California’s Election Integrity Project, which trains poll watchers to look out for voter fraud. Though she’s not pushing for a voter ID requirement in California, she supports the effort elsewhere, saying it prevents people from casting a fraudulent ballot.

“It’s an easy thing to do if all you have to do is look at the list that’s hanging outside the door, write it down on a piece of paper, and go in and hand it to a poll worker, and then it’s just passed right on down and you sign the book," she said.

She said her group is interested in ensuring that every legitimate vote is counted.

But advocacy groups point out that documented cases of voter fraud are very low -- in some cases anecdotal at best -- and that in effect, poll watchers serve to intimidate voters, and that additional voting ID requirements run the risk of disenfranchising minorities.