voter participation generally leads to a Republican win. It is no surprise then
that Republicans have supported various efforts to restrict the voting capacity
of certain groups of people throughout our country’s history. Those who did not
own land, women, and African Americans were not simply ‘given’ the right to
vote upon the founding of this country. Instead, they were forced to fight for
this fundamental right of our democratic nation. Though in 1870 the 15th
Amendment declared that no citizen would be denied the right to vote on account
of race or color, it was not until 50 years later that women were included in
these protections, and was not until 15 years after that, that restrictions to
voter registration and additional protections for minority populationswere addressed in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
country bares a long history of votes being restricted by the same small group
of people in power who have attempted to keep voter participation subdued in
order to sustain their own positions. We are currently seeing a strong effort
to limit voter participation—especially since the last presidential elections.
In 2008, the U.S. experienced a record increase in voter participation in which
youth and minority populations were particularly represented. For example,
between 2004 and 2008 there was an almost 30% increase of active Latino voters.
Such a large increase in just four years and sustained participation in the
2010 midterm elections indicates a positive trend that we can count on
increasing in the upcoming November elections.
increase in voter participation is a crucial component to our country’s social
and political conversation, indicating that more voices are joining the debates
that will help shape our future. But this recent increase in participation
certainly has not come without opposition. As we have experienced in the past,
restrictions to voter rights are being proposed and enforced, which are
disproportionately affecting minority populations. In 2011, states across the
country proposed legislation seeking to limit people’s ability to register and
to cast votes in an attempt to reduce voter participation, therefore making a
Republican win more likely. While such legislature is harmful for all
minority groups, this article examines the context and consequences specifically for the
Increases in Latin@ population and Latin@ voter participation
the past decade our country has experienced a large increase in minority
populations, which has subsequently been reflected in the amount of voter
participation by these groups. A report by the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) reveals that from 2000 to 2010 the Latino
population in the U.S. grew 43%. This increase means Latinos now comprise 16%
of the total U.S. population (NAACP).
only have we experienced this large increase in the size of the Latino
population, but we have also seen a change in some forms of political involvement by Latinos. The 2008 elections illustrated an unprecedented increase in participation among minority groups and young people. While only
63.6% of all eligible voters actually voted in the 2008 Presidential Elections,
12.1% identified as African American, and 7.4% identified as Latino (Pew). This
7.4% of Latino voters marks a 28.4% increase since the 2004 elections
(NAACP). Though the White population
comprises a disproportionate amount of voters, the gap between White, African
American, and Latino voters is in fact decreasing. Such changes mark an
important shift in our country’s current situation. Through these increases in
voter participation it is becoming clear that new voices are
insisting on being part of the discussion.
New laws and regulations
response to this shift, we have seen numerous efforts to restrict such
expansion. Legislature has been proposed (and has already been passed in 14
states) placing restrictions on everything from voter registration activities,
to early and absentee voting periods, to photo identification documents. Multiple states have passed laws decreasing the amount of time
available for same-day voter registration in the weeks prior to and on Election
Day itself. Other laws have come into effect that restrict registration drives
and third party voter registration activities (Weiser, Moreno). Various
states have passed legislature requiring photo identification to be presented
when voting. Additional restrictions have been placed on people with past felony
convictions, making it more difficult for them to regain their voting rights
after having served their sentence (Weiser).
Restrictive Voting Measures Enacted in 2011
|Forms of Restrictions
||States Enacting Such Measures
|Barriers to Registration:
|Restriction on Third-Party Registration
|Restrictions on When and Where
Individuals Can Register
|Florida; Maine; Ohio; Wisconsin
|Documentary Proof of Citizenship
||Alabama; Kansas; Tennessee
|Durational Residency Requirements
|Enhanced Felon Disfranchisment Laws
|Restrictions on Early or
|Florida; Georgia; Maine;
Tennessee; West Virgina
|Photo ID Laws
||Alabama; Kansas; Mississippi;
Rhode Island; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Wisconsin
|Total measures enacted in 2011
: Defending Democracy - Confronting modern barriers to voting rights in America
Effects of new legislation on Latin@ population
those who are proposing this new legislation do not believe that it targets
particular groups, the laws are in fact discriminatory. The most prominent way
that the regulations discussed above disproportionately affect Latinos is on an
economic level. Principally, documents like identification cards and birth certificates
cost money to obtain. The Latino population already experiences multiple
barriers to obtaining economic equality compared with non-Latinos. With
economic challenges frequently present, the cost of buying documents such as ID
cards, or missing hours from work to go and vote midweek deters a large number
of people from voting. Currently, 16% of eligible Latino voters do not own
government issued photo IDs and would be prevented from casting a ballot if
they were not able to purchase such IDs. Additionally, restricting voter
registration activities and reducing early voting periods places a
disproportionate challenge on minority groups who rely on early voting days,
and who are most commonly registered to vote through voting drives. For
example, in 2008 15% of Latinos were registered through voter registration
drives in Florida alone, as compared to only 6% of Whites (NAACP).
of the new legislation
to 2011, only two states had voting regulations comparable to those just
discussed. Now within just the past year, this number has more than quadrupled.
Such a quick shift in attitudes towards voting ‘security’ is an important
aspect to keep in mind in this discussion, and brings me to the following
examination regarding who is supporting this new legislation.
the 2008 elections’ increase in voter participation and the subsequent election
of a Democrat, many Republicans began backing legislature that sought to
restrict the voting capacity of those likely to support Democratic candidates.
Although there is “no evidence of meaningful levels of fraud” within our elections,
Republicans have been hiding under claims of ‘fighting voter
fraud’ in their creation and support of the recent bills (Savage).
It is worrisome that these restrictions are being promoted under
the discourse of protecting voter fraud when this is simply not the case.
addition to the Republican Party, other groups are big supporters of the
legislature as are certain individuals. Take for example the Koch brothers who
have been important (financial) supporters of the recent bills. Through their
corporations, the Koch brothers contribute millions of dollars to conservative
organizations like ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council, which was a
main source in the creation of voter ID laws. (In early April 2012, ALEC
declared it would drop its support for such laws after coming under intense
scrutiny by various organizations) (Democracy Now). Additionally, the Koch brothers
have contributed over $245,000 to politicians who support the laws
(politicians such as Gov. Scott Walker–WI , Gov. Sam Brownback–KA, and Gov.
Rick Perry–TX). As the report Koch Brothers Exposed explains, “the Koch
brothers are behind these kinds of laws because they want to cut off the
participation of people who are not behind their corporate agenda” (Greenwald).
The New York Times also states that “the measures are a veiled effort to suppress
participation by hundreds of thousands of eligible voters (Savage).
statistics discussed earlier illustrate a clear correlation between the
increased amount of minority voter participation and the multitude of new laws
seeking to make registering and voting more difficult. The legislation has been
created in a way that disproportionately affects those who are already
Republicans are concerned with the security of their positions, and have begun
drastic measures in an effort to maintain them. But with a strength and
determination that comes from a long struggle to gain voting rights, Latinos
and other minority groups will continue to involve themselves in the political
conversation, illustrating their significant position in shaping our future.
Will your voice be part of the conversation?
REGISTER TO VOTE here!
Now. “Wave of Restrictive Voting Laws Prompts Federal Probes, Grassroots Activism
Ahead of 2012 Elections.” 15 Dec. 2011. Electronic. http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/15/wave_of_restrictive_voting_laws_prompts
Greenwald, Robert. Are
the Koch Brothers Denying your Vote? Brave New Films. 3 Nov. 2011. Film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dwOTm3ShQh0
Mary. “Restrictive Voting Laws Threaten to Disenfranchise Millions.” Huffington Post: Latino Politics. 1 Dec.
2011. Electronic. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/voto-latino/restrictive-voting-laws-t_b_1120878.html
“Defending Democracy: Confronting modern barriers to voting rights in America.”
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
20 Feb. 2012. Print.
Hispanic Center. “2008 National survey of Latinos: Hispanic voter attitudes.”
Mark Hugo Lopez and Susan Minushkin. 24 July 2008. Electronic. 20 Feb. 2012. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2008/07/24/2008-national-survey-of-latinos-hispanic-voter-attitudes/
Charlie. “Holder Signals Tough Review of New State Laws on Voting.” New York Times. 13 Dec. 2011.
Wendy R. and Lawrence Norden. “Voting Law Changes in 2012.” Brennan Center for Justice at New York
University. 2011. Electronic. March 3 2012.