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Ballot Insecurity

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March 12, 2008

With the election season in full swing, the timing is perfect for the release of a new book called American Crisis, Southern Solutions, a collection of essays that discusses the state of the nation from a distinctly Southern perspective. Call me biased, but the best contribution in the book is written by our very own Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

Laughlin authored “Ballot Security” and with rich examples it describes the partisan tactics used to disfranchise voters across the country. The essay’s title refers to the insidious “ballot security” measures designed by lawmakers to achieve an unfair electoral advantage under the guise of good government. They include the recent flurry of voter identification laws created to solve the non-existent problem of in-person voter fraud. Laws like these have a disproportionate impact on low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, senior citizens, voters with disabilities and many other eligible voters who have neither a government-issued photo ID nor the money to obtain one.

Nothing is more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote because, as the Supreme Court has ruled, voting is “preservative of all rights.” Rather than erecting hurdles that prevent Americans from voting, lawmakers must ensure that every eligible voter is allowed to vote, and that every vote counts.

Laughlin writes that “one of the enduring, and unconscionable, ironies of our democracy is the willingness of those with the power to try to limit the right to vote for racial and partisan reasons.” Soon the Supreme Court will make a decision in our voter ID lawsuit and decide whether or not the latest ironic power grab will pass constitutional muster.

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