Magazine article Colorlines Magazine

Attempts to Disenfranchise Voters of Color

Magazine article Colorlines Magazine

Attempts to Disenfranchise Voters of Color

Article excerpt

ACROSS THE COUNTRY, STATE AND FEDERAL LEGISLATORS ARE DEBATING whether to require people to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote and a photo ID when they vote. These measures would disproportionately disenfranchise people of color, particularly Blacks in many areas of the country.

The momentum began back in 2004 when Arizona voters approved Prop. 200 that requires proof of citizenship for voter registration and public benefits statewide. Despite ongoing efforts to reverse Prop. 200, courts have upheld the law. This past year, however, the federal government issued a letter telling Arizona officials that they can't enforce the measure in federal elections.

The law serves as a poll tax and shuts down community-based registration drives--effectively disenfranchising potential voters in Latino, Black and Native American communities, according to Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Prop. 200 spawned copycats in many other states: 13 in the first half of 2006 alone. While most states have been unsuccessful in passing these laws, their anti-immigrant message has been heard at the federal level. Earlier this year, Congress passed a law requiring proof of citizenship for Medicaid benefits starting June 2006.

"There is a hysteria that undocumented immigrants are 'taking over everything,' 'stealing the American way of life,'" Perales said. "Now the hysterical people are saying, 'Undocumented immigrants are voting,' and we have to put in all of these incredibly repressive measures to make sure that's not happening, when they can't come up with a single example of an undocumented person voting. …

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