Politics

Rep. John Lewis: Voter ID Laws Are The Modern Day Poll Tax

| by Ethan Brown
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Veteran U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) compared current voter ID laws in the southern part of the country to poll taxes in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, saying the ID laws inhibit poor Americans and African-Americans from voting.

In a piece he wrote titled “The Unfinished Work of Selma,” Lewis discusses his disappointment in the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision to eliminate a prominent section of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). 

Section 4 in the VRA states that areas throughout the country that have been known to discriminate against citizens based on their race must receive approval from the U.S. Justice Department before changing any of their voting laws and procedures. 

In their 2013 ruling, the Court sided with the states and removed this section of the law, effectively allowing states to decide their own voting laws, rather than have them approved by the federal government.  However, the Court’s ruling says that Congress must create a new method of determining voting laws, of which they have yet to act on.

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Lewis took aim at the Republican Party, blaming the conservative state governments and legislatures in the South for not allowing all citizens to vote by creating strict voter ID laws to suppress turnout among blacks and poor residents, groups who typically affiliate with the Democratic Party.

“Couched in language about ‘protecting the ballot box’, Republicans have pushed voter ID laws that disproportionality impact certain blocks of voters – African-Americans, women, Latinos, the poor and young people – who tend to vote against them.  In Texas alone, 600,000 voters were at risk of being disenfranchised by the new voter ID requirements,” said Lewis.

Republicans argue that voter ID laws protect numerous cases of voter fraud throughout the country, especially during presidential elections and close races in states.  For example, “former Connecticut legislator Christina Ayala has been indicted on 19 charges of voter fraud, including voting in districts where she didn’t reside,” proving just one of the many cases of voter fraud in the country.

Sources: Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, the Ed Schultz Show / Photo Credit: Chris Walton/Flickr