In the midst of the debate over requiring all voters at all elections to show government-issued photo identification, polls showing majority support are occasionally cited as justification for this initiative. It’s true. A majority of people see no issue with requiring voters to show ID. This isn’t surprising since most people have some form of government-issued ID, typically a driver’s license.
But here’s the thing. The opposition to House Bill 934, the voter ID bill currently before the Pennsylvania General Assembly, has never been about the majority. We know and have always known that most people have ID.
But we also know that a significant percentage of U.S. citizens, approximately 11 percent, do not have the ID required by HB 934 and would struggle to produce the documentation PennDOT requires to get an ID. Who are they? They are disproportionately seniors, blacks, people living in poverty, and people with disabilities.
Take a look at the groups in Protect Our Vote, the coalition advocating against voter ID. It includes Black Political Empowerment Project, Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Conference of the NAACP, the Alliance for Retired Americans, Project H.O.M.E., SeniorLAW Center. These are organizations that represent particular communities that are at higher risk of losing the vote if HB 934 passes.
The ACLU has a well-deserved reputation for defending anyone whose rights are endangered, regardless of race, religion, income, etc. But whose rights are most frequently at risk? It’s relatively rare that we advocate at the state capitol for people who live comfortable lives. It’s relatively rare that we advocate for people who are like those in power at the legislature and in the governor’s office. We will if there is a legitimate issue at hand. But our fellow Americans whose rights are most at risk are also those communities who are most likely to be marginalized by the majority population, due to any number of factors, including race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, disability, etc.
We fail as a nation when we are unable to empathize with those who lead lives that are different from ours. As we recognize Black History Month, we must never forget that the struggle for the right to vote- a struggle that took nearly 200 years to make right- has never been about the majority or the powerful. And that’s why HB 934, our voter ID bill, cannot pass.
House Bill 934 is currently before the state Senate Appropriations Committee. It is critical that you contact your state senator to ask him or her to vote “NO” on voter ID. You can learn more about this issue and find your senator’s contact information at this link.