Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Précis #2: The Big Lie Behind Voter ID Laws

The New York Times’ Editorial Board, composed of 19 journalists with wide-ranging areas of expertise who write Op-Ed pieces, in their opinion article, “The Big Lie Behind Voter ID Laws”, from The New York Times opinion pages, declare that the voter ID laws being passed around the country only serve to disenfranchise people. The authors even goes so far as to call the laws “antidemocratic sham[s]” (Editorial Board 10).

The Board utilizes logos, specific examples, and ethos to prove its point. The authors decimate “Republican lawmakers” assertion that through these laws they are “preventing voter fraud” (Editorial Board 4). They reference a study that found that there is “virtually no in-person voter fraud”, and that in Texas, the state that tried to pass “the most restrictive voter ID law in the country… there were two convictions for in-person voter impersonation in one 10-year period,” in which time “20 million votes were cast” (Editorial Board 5). The numbers say that voter fraud is basically a moot point, despite lawmakers claiming otherwise. Next, the authors give specific examples of these laws being unnecessary, and further, a hindrance to voter rights and turnout. In fact, “in at least two states — Kansas and Tennessee — [voter ID laws] appear to have reduced turnout by 2 percent to 3 percent…” (ibid). Recently, the Supreme Court even blocked “one of the worst laws” in Wisconsin which required “voters to show a photo ID to cast a ballot” (Editorial Board 2). Finally, The Board condemns the laws as being unethical and discriminatory. The authors cite the findings of Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in the Texas case, who concluded that the law “violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act” and “would drive down turnout among minority voters,” clearly a goal of Republican lawmakers who want to “keep otherwise eligible voters away from the polls” (Editorial Boards 7, 8, 6). 

Hoping to convince the reader of the fraudulence of voter ID laws, The Board employs indignant diction. They declare that “[v]oter ID laws… do only one thing very well…” which is “suppress voting” (Editorial Board 6, 4). This type of harsh language expresses the authors’ distaste of the laws and contributes to the The Board’s critical tone. The authors want to communicate to the reader that voter ID laws serve only to deprive lawful citizens of their right to vote. Syntactically, The Board uses several compound sentences, condemning the cost of voter IDs by stating that “in most cases, [the laws] mean voters who are poor, often minorities, and who don’t have the necessary documents or the money or time to get photo IDs” are the ones disenfranchised (Editorial Board 6). This use of sentence structure mirrors the compound issues with voter ID laws: discrimination and disenfranchisement. Such grammar contributes to The Board’s critical tone.

I agree with The Editorial Board. Voter ID laws were illegal under the "Voting Rights Act" of 1965 for a reason: to prevent such "intentional discrimination" and disenfranchisement as has recently yet again been allowed (Editorial Board 7, 8). Under such laws, people of color were required to read a passage before being able to vote, despite the fact that they lived in a system which hindered their education and kept them illiterate. Such prejudiced measures, legal before and now newly legally manifested, foster inequity and are inherently bigoted. There should be no requirement of IDs or any parameters at the polls for being able to vote.

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