A Brief Guide to Voter Suppression – Part 1

Voter suppression comes in myriad forms and isn’t always obvious. For instance, what’s wrong with asking for a valid ID when someone comes to a polling place? On the surface, nothing. It would establish that the voter is who they say they are and does, in fact, live in the appropriate precinct. But delve down a bit and the issues with voter ID laws become more apparent.

You hear all the time that voter ID laws disproportionately affect lower-income and non-Caucasians. Why? Because the MVA has fairly strict rules about who’s eligible for a state-issued ID and many lower-income people can’t provide the required paperwork. For instance, in MD you must provide an original US birth certificate or a valid, unexpired US passport, or a Certificate of Naturalization or, or, or… there’s a whole list of documents. And they must be in English, and originals, etc. Once you’ve found one of those documents, you must also provide an original Social Security card, or one of several other forms, all of which must be recent.

But wait, we aren’t done yet. You must also provide at least two of another huge list of documents, proving your residential address. For instance, a checking, savings or other financial account statement. A copy of a recent MD tax return. An insurance card or policy. The list goes on. Once you’ve rounded up all the required forms you must also make an appointment at the MVA and then, assuming you cleared all those hurdles, wait for your ID card to come in the mail.

Let’s be serious. Here’s a link to the MVA’s website, feel free to click through it and see how easily you could put your hands on the required documentation. Now pretend you’re the kind of person who lives paycheck to paycheck, who doesn’t have a bank account, who perhaps lives with relatives because you can’t afford your own place and, because you don’t have a driver’s license, you rely on public transportation. You probably work more than one job, just to make ends meet. How likely are you be able to reach an MVA office, let alone be able to sit there for an hour or two?

That’s one face of voter suppression. More on this to come.