Posted on behalf of Ken LaZebnik
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” — John Quincy Adams
The right to vote is at the heart of the American experiment, and as we have all been aware since 2000, literally every vote counts. The fundamental question of accessibility to voting was examined by veteran media campaign consultant Don Ringe and attorney Kathleen Unger, Founder and President of VoteRiders, in a presentation at Payson Library on October 4.
VoteRiders is a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to obtaining voter registration identification to met the requirements of new laws in eleven states. As of October 2012, some form of voter ID law is in effect in 30 states. Unger stated her position that voter identification laws make it difficult for communities of color, elderly, veterans, and people with disabilities to produce the often complicated documentation required to vote. VoteRiders works with key partners in selected states to acquire the necessary documents to vote.
Unger said, “Protecting the right to vote is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue. No citizen should be prevented from exercising this basic right.” She continued: “Some people may think it’s easy to get a photo ID. Doesn’t everybody need one to drive a car, get on a plane, and buy cigarettes and alcohol? Well, not everyone drives including people with disabilities, older adults – the Greatest Generation! – and low-income individuals. Not everybody smokes or drinks alcohol. And many citizens have their reasons why they do not travel on airplanes.”
To obtain the ID required by the new laws means at least one trip to the local DMV, but the bigger difficulty can be trying to get the documents the DMV requires to prove who you are and where you live. A state may require a certified copy of your birth certificate with a raised seal (and, legal documentation of any change of name since then) – all of which costs money and can take time, plus a social security card plus two acceptable documents showing your name and address.
Voter ID laws affect hundreds of thousands of potential voters. In the state of Pennsylvania alone reliable surveys and sources place the number of voters who lack a government issued ID at anywhere from 758,939 to 1.5 million. VoteRiders has partnered with organizations across the country to facilitate individuals obtaining the documents they need to vote.
Don Ringe added, “This is just another form of poll tax. These requirements put an unfair burden on the poor and elderly living off Social Security who simply can’t afford the $20 or $50 to pay for a birth certificate. It should be free. That’s what the right to vote is all about. ”
For more information about VoteRiders, and to view a video outlining their project, click to their website: VoteRiders.