Letter From the Editor 

lettered.jpg

The 24th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1964, prohibits Congress and the states from requiring a tax or payment in order to vote, otherwise known as a poll tax. Poll taxes originated in Southern states after Reconstruction as a way to make it more difficult for African Americans to vote. By forcing poor folks to spend money to cast a ballot, they effectively discouraged their participation.

Now, 45 years later, the Republican Party is pulling an end-run on the Constitution by passing laws that make it more difficult, once again, for poor people to vote.

The trick-play — laws requiring voters to have a state-issue photo ID — is deceptively cloaked as a way to prevent voter fraud, a mostly nonexistent problem. In most states where the law has passed, voters can obtain the ID for free, but there can be significant expenses, including having to buy a birth certificate. And in Tennessee, for example, the free IDs must be obtained at one of around 70 driver's-license testing stations statewide, so many Tennesseans will have to travel to another county in order to obtain an ID. And if they don't have a driver's license, that means getting a ride somehow. A nice Catch-22, that one. And one that, while not a "tax," will certainly cost some prospective voters money.

In Tennessee, 126,202 people over 60 have non-photo driver's licenses. That doesn't include those who have no driver's license at all, a considerable number. Here are the percentages of those who don't have state-issued IDs for various groups: African Americans, 25 percent; Latino Americans, 19 percent; 18-24 years old, 18 percent; those with incomes under $35,000, 15 percent.

Looks a little bit like Memphis, doesn't it?

If, as Republicans say, this law isn't meant to discourage anyone from voting, I have a suggestion, an amendment to the law, if you will: Install cameras like those at drivers service bureaus in voter-registration facilities. When a citizen registers to vote, he gets his or her picture taken and a photo ID made. Voila, instant state-issued photo ID. How hard is this to figure out? And we can afford it. Thanks to the GOP, which overturned the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act of 2008, we have $37 million in targeted federal funds going unused.

If this law isn't about making it more difficult to vote, then this would be a simple fix and would end the controversy. Right? I'm surprised they didn't think of it.

Not.

Bruce VanWyngarden
brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments (13)

Showing 1-13 of 13

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-13 of 13

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Bobby "Blue" Bland Celebrated With Special Screening Of Unsung

News Blog

On the Scene at Stumbling Santa

Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies 110, Pelicans 108: The Long Game

News Blog

Trader Joe's Project Back on Track

From My Seat

Boca, Bartow, and Backflips

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Richard James

Tiger Blue

Ole Miss 85, Tigers 77

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

  • Common Sense Pot Policy

    Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • The Winds of War

    "Nice little trees you got there. Be too bad if something were to happen to them." — Nicky "Big Panda" Flacco, Memphis Zoo press secretary ...
    • Jan 21, 2016
  • Detention Deficit

    Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."

    • Mar 10, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation