With the streets of Ferguson now quiet and the body of Michael Brown laid to rest, you could count on our friends at the Daily Beast to find fresh ways to exploit the tragic episode for political ends.
Witness contributor Jacob Lupfer's prescription for how white Americans should respond to the shooting death of the Missouri teenager: oppose efforts to tighten voter ID laws:
When a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, this month, a community took to the streets in protest. In response, people all over the world began to think seriously about issues of race in policing, political representation, and the persistent reality of racial prejudice in our neighborhoods, our institutions, and in ourselves.
While the episode is first and foremost about a young man who did not deserve to die, the empathy and palpable solidarity that have arisen in Ferguson’s wake is a happy development. Of course, those who need their racial consciousness awakened the most have predictably settled on blaming the victim. Yet many whites are indeed concerned about Ferguson, and are looking for ways to act.
So here’s one obvious thing these white people can do to help the black community: Oppose voter suppression in the form of voter ID laws.
The disputed 2000 presidential election, the relatively close margins of subsequent elections, and thoroughgoing political polarization have led to an uptick in concern about election administration. In 2004, Bush-Cheney voters were much likelier to believe their vote was counted accurately. In 2008 and especially in 2012, GOP voters reported much less confidence in the vote.
These concerns played right into the hands of Republican activists and state legislators, who have been actively promoting and enacting voter identification laws.
Ostensibly about preserving the integrity of the electoral process, voter ID laws are a particularly insidious form of racial discrimination. Disenfranchising qualified, Democratic-leaning black voters is both the means and the end.
Legislation differs by state, but generally these laws require voters to present a government-issued photo ID. It turns out that millions of Americans do not have a current, government-issued photo ID. This group is disproportionately drawn from ethic minorities, senior citizens, young voters, disabled people, and the working poor. Even a study that voter ID proponents frequently cite because it minimizes the problem readily admits that that “the adverse effects fall disproportionately on women, African-Americans, and Democrats.”
Without making overwrought analogies to Jim Crow, sensible people of good will on both sides of the aisle should agree that voter ID laws are cynical, deplorable tactics. It is time to wage campaigns based on competing ideas, values, and proposals. Elections should be about turnout, not suppression.
Honest Republicans will admit that their only justification is a win-at-all-costs attitude in which legitimate electors turned away are simply collateral damage. A conservative friend of mine, after being presented with the facts about the nonexistent problem of voter impersonation, conceded the point about the disproportionate impact of voter ID laws on the urban poor. “Why can’t we just phase in these laws over a 10-year period?” my friend asked.
The answer is simple. The GOP doesn’t need to suppress voters in 2024. It needs to suppress them today.
Seven in 10 registered voters are in favor of identification laws in order to root out fraud at the ballot box, according to a Fox News poll released this week.
The survey found majority support in every major demographic, including black voters and Democrats.
The survey found majorities of every demographic support the law. Ninety-one percent of Republicans offer support, and 66 percent of independents feel the same.
Fifty-five percent of Democrats support the laws, while 43 percent oppose them.
Opposition to the laws is highest among black respondents, but even there a bare majority, 51 percent, support them. Forty-six percent of African Americans oppose the laws.
On his personal website, Mr. Lupfer confessed that he "sat out the 2012 election" and is now "not even registered to vote." It also seems incredibly odd for him to lecture on voter ID laws as some evil partisan scheme when he insists on his website that though he's "not without opinions... they aren't as important to me as they once were."
If that's the case, you'd hate to see what sort of invective he'd have about voter ID if he wrote this a few years back.