Dr. King’s legacy and Minnesota’s vote

Yesterday I went to the MARCH and Vote NO on Photo ID to Protect Rev. Dr. King’s Legacy Event. A couple of the usual nay-sayers had objected in advance to calling this Dr. King’s Legacy Event. They said, among other stupid things, that Dr. King’s legacy has to do with human rights and not with voting rights.

Yes. Tell that to Selma. Tell that to Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer. Tell that to anyone who was actually alive and paying attention in the 1960s.

Dr. King was a leader in fighting for voting rights and that fight culminated in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

March 25, 2965, Montgomery, Alabama: “Our whole campaign in Alabama has been centered around the right to vote. In focusing the attention of the nation and the world today on the flagrant denial of the right to vote, we are exposing the very origin, the root cause, of racial segregation in the Southland. …

Let us march on ballot boxes, (Let’s march) march on ballot boxes until race-baiters disappear from the political arena.

Let us march on ballot boxes until the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs (Yes, sir) will be transformed into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. (Speak, Doctor)

Let us march on ballot boxes (Let us march) until the Wallaces of our nation tremble away in silence.

Let us march on ballot boxes (Let us march) until we send to our city councils (Yes, sir), state legislatures, (Yes, sir) and the United States Congress, (Yes, sir) men who will not fear to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.

Let us march on ballot boxes (Let us march. March) until brotherhood becomes more than a meaningless word in an opening prayer, but the order of the day on every legislative agenda.

Minnesota’s proposed Voter Photo ID law will impose a new poll tax and a new voting test in Minnesota.

Backers of Voter ID say that it will be free. The ID might be free, but the birth certificate to prove you are a citizen will cost $26 in Minnesota. (And, in a nifty Catch-22, you need a valid ID to get it.)

The new voting test also  reverses a long-standing Minnesota tradition of making it easier for people to register and vote and encouraging high voter turnout. Instead, it will be a test of planning ahead and preparing ahead to vote. Voters will need to plan ahead to get an ID, plan ahead to get a new ID if they move, plan ahead to not get robbed or lose their official ID before election day.

Voter ID backers say it will eliminate fraud. Fraud is not a problem in Minnesota. The most that they have shown is that a few convicted felons have voted in past elections. That’s a mistake, not fraud. And Voter ID won’t stop a convicted felon from voting — there’s no mark on a driver’s license or government-issued ID that says someone is a convicted felon.

No, the real purpose of this law is not to make it harder for a tiny number of convicted felons to vote. The real purpose of this law is to make it harder for poor people, young people, old people and people of color to vote. The League of Women Voters has the numbers:

  • 18 percent of elderly citizens do not have a government-issued photo ID.
  • 15 percent of voters earning less than $35,000 a year do not have a photo ID.
  • 18 percent of citizens aged 18-24 do not have a government-issued ID with their current address and name.
  • 10 percent of voters with disabilities do not have a photo ID.
  • 25 percent of African-American citizens of voting age do not have a current, government-issued ID

In the 1960s, southern governors said the poll tax did not infringe on equal voting rights. They said everybody had to pay the same poll tax and everybody had to pass the same literacy test.

The way those laws were applied — the actual effect of those laws — was to suppress the vote. And that’s the same actual effect that the Voter ID amendment would have in Minnesota.

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