BY FREDDIE ALLEN
Special to the Times/NNPA
As the American electorate becomes more diverse, new voting laws threaten to disenfranchise young Black and Latino voters in what a new report called “the largest wave of voter suppression since the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”
The report by OurTime.org and Advancement Project, titled “The Time Tax,” details disparities in the excessive wait times that millennials (18-29 years-old), especially millennials of color, endured to cast votes during the 2012 November elections.
According to the report, millennials are expected to account for 40 percent of the electorate in less than eight years including a higher proportion of young minority voters.
During the 2012 November elections, millennial voters (18-29 years-old) accounted for 19 percent of the electorate. While turnout for Latinos, Asians and the youngest voters decreased (18-24 years-old), voter turnout for Blacks increased.
Yet, Blacks “waited an average of 23 minutes to vote, compared to only 12 minutes for Whites,” stated the report.
Wait times higher in Florida
In Florida, the last state to report final vote tallies, the wait times were especially egregious for young voters and minorities during the 2012 November elections.
According to the study, during the 2012 elections, Floridians reported “an average wait time of 39 minutes to cast a ballot,” three times the national average of 13.3 minutes.
“More than 20% of voters in Miami-Dade County were under 30, and closing times were later in precincts where there were more voters under 30,” stated the report.
Some voters complained of waiting 19 hours to vote in Florida, according to an Advancement Project study filed with the Presidential Commission of Election Administration, a government agency tasked with improving the voting experience for all eligible citizens. Voting rights advocates fear that the ‘time tax’ will discourage young voters from voting in future elections.
New photo ID requirements will also have a disproportionate impact on young voters of color.
“Since the last election, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas and other states have tried to limit or ban the use of student IDs as voter identification,” stated the report.
Black youth scored lower rates of identifications compared to their White peers, for driver’s licenses (71.2 percent vs. 85.1 percent), birth certificates (73.3 percent vs. 84.3 percent) and college IDs (24.9 percent vs. 30.9 percent).
Blacks asked for ID more often
In 2012, poll workers asked young, minority voters (18-29 years-old) to show ID at higher rates than their White peers. In states without photo ID requirements, more than 65 percent of young Blacks were asked to present identification, compared about 43 percent of young White voters. In states where photo IDs were required to cast votes, about 94 percent of young Blacks were asked for their ID compared to a little more than 84 percent of young Whites.
According to “The Time Tax” study, “Black youth reported that the lack of required identification prevented them from voting at nearly four times the rate of White youth (17.3% compared to 4.7%).”
Lawmakers in Wisconsin are attempting to pass legislation that will restrict the type of identification that will be accepted in future elections. The study found that registered African-American voters in Wisconsin are 40 percent more likely than White voters to lack a driver’s license or state ID. Seventy-eight percent of young, Black men (18-24 years-old) and 66 percent of young, Black women don’t have a driver’s license.
Even though Pennsylvanian lawmakers found “zero instances of in-person voter fraud,” they still moved ahead with their own version of a voter ID law. Virginian legislators also passed a bill requiring photo identification, without any evidence of in-person voter fraud.
“North Carolina, which is home to the most comprehensive voter suppression law, includes a voter ID provision that expressly prohibits IDs from the state’s numerous colleges and universities from being accepted for voting,” stated the report.
Civil rights revisited
The report continued: “Among its dozens of voting restrictions, North Carolina’s H.B. 589 decreases the early voting period by a full week and eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting; it prohibits the counting of provisional ballots cast by eligible voters who go to the wrong precinct, expands the number and scope of voter challengers, eliminates pre-registration for 16- and 17- year olds, and eliminates a state mandate for voter registration in high schools, among other provisions.”
The new voting laws in North Carolina inspired a grassroots movement in the state called “Moral Mondays” that has increased awareness of a state legislature that many civil rights advocates believe has passed laws that violate the civil rights of minorities and women.
The report outlined a number of recommendations to upgrade the current election system and increase voter turnout among young people including online voter registration, same-day voter registration and expanding early voting opportunities.
Free, fair, accessible
OurTime.org and Advance Project also endorsed federal standards requiring all states to accept “student and university IDs, employee IDs, Veterans Administration IDs, and non-photo identification such as a voter registration card, current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.”
OurTime.org and Advance Project called on Congress to update the Voting Rights Act and restoring the full protections of Section 5 “to block discriminatory voting changes before they can be put into effect.”
The civil rights groups also urged the Justice Department to continue to combat state voting laws that discriminate against minorities utilizing all legal tools available.
“We believe that elections should be free, fair and accessible,” stated the report. “The ballot box is the one place where we are all supposed to be equal, whether rich or poor, young or old, and no matter what your race.”