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Defend the right to vote in 2012

STUART APPELBAUM RWDSU President | 12/21/2011, 6:18 p.m.
As we gear up for the 2012 election cycle, a disturbing trend has emerged that...
Defend the right to vote in 2012

As we gear up for the 2012 election cycle, a disturbing trend has emerged that sees powerful forces winning ground in an all-out assault to stifle the voice of American citizens everywhere by suppressing the right to vote.

It's all part of a right-wing agenda that is seeking to disenfranchise voters and make the U.S. political system an exclusive plaything for the rich. The laws passed in these states-many of them important battleground states that could decide who wins the White House-could cost millions of U.S. citizens their voting rights.

A dozen states this year tightened rules requiring voters to present state-issued photo ID at the polls. Meanwhile, Florida and Ohio are among the states drastically cutting the number of days allowed for early voting.

These laws are designed to sound like sensible counter-measures to election fraud, but scratch the surface and it's clear that they are anything but. Approximately 11 percent of voting-age U.S. citizens-over 20 million people-currently lack government-issued photo ID. These laws would place roadblocks in the way of potential voters-many of whom are very young, elderly or poor-by requiring them to go through sometimes costly and time-consuming processes to acquire an ID.

In fact, in some cases it could amount to a "poll tax," which harkens back to the dark days of Jim Crow laws in the South.

Forcing people to obtain and keep track of photo IDs that they otherwise do not need serves no other purpose than to suppress the votes of people who the instigators of these laws-overwhelmingly right wing interests-don't want going to the polls. In response, civil rights groups like the NAACP have criticized these laws, saying they will disproportionately affect African-American and Latino voters.

Cutting down on early voting will also suppress the votes of many citizens. Not everybody has the luxury of being able to vote on Election Day during polling hours. People may have to travel, work during polling hours or simply not want to deal with long lines and big crowds. Either way, reducing early voting erects barriers for many potential voters while doing nothing to combat election fraud.

It's clear that the main purpose behind these laws is the disenfranchisement of American voters. In fact, over 5 million Americans could lose their vote because of recent changes to state voting laws, according to a report issued in December by the New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice.

The 2008 elections that swept Barack Obama into office saw historically high turnout levels. These laws are a direct response to that high watermark of voter enthusiasm-and a blatantly un-American attempt to attack our rights and silence our voice.