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Voter ID Sanity & Insanity

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Mike

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WASHINGTON — New state voter ID laws don’t violate minorities’ civil rights and are necessary to ensure fair elections, former Alabama congressman Artur Davis said Thursday.

Davis, a former Democrat who switched to the GOP in May and has established residency in Virginia, dismissed concerns raised by some civil rights activists that laws imposing tougher voter ID standards have the same goal — to suppress minority voter turnout — as the violent tactics used against blacks during the 1960s civil rights movement.

Holding up his Virginia driver’s license at a voter ID forum held at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Davis said, “It is not a billy club, it’s not a fire hose. It’s not some kind of a weapon or club that Southern sheriffs used to use to keep people from voting or participating. It’s a tiny, little photo ID.”

But Benard Simelton, president of the NAACP Alabama State Conference in Athens, said many minority voters, especially those who are elderly, lack photo ID and can’t afford to buy one just to cast a ballot.

Requiring that such voters obtain birth certificates or otherwise go out of their way to get a state-approved ID is a form of voter suppression because they will choose not to vote instead, Simelton said.

“Where is all this fraud that they are talking about where people are voting in other people’s names?” he said. “This is just one more thing that certain elements in our society are trying to do to disenfranchise and discourage people from voting.”

Simelton said he’s especially disappointed that Davis, who’s black, is pushing for voter ID laws, saying Davis’ former constituents in Birmingham and Selma will be hurt the most by Alabama’s voter ID law. Alabama is one of 30 states that require voters to show some form of ID before they can cast a ballot.

Davis once was a rising star in the Democratic Party and a strong supporter of President Barack Obama. Davis now says he’ll vote for GOP challenger Mitt Romney in November and may run as a Republican for state office or a congressional seat in Virginia.

He lost his 2010 bid to become Alabama’s first black governor after saying he didn’t need the minority vote to win.

“It seems that his views and everything else have changed since he didn’t win the governorship down here in Alabama,” Simelton said. “We still pray for him.”

For now, voters in Alabama don’t have to show a photo ID. Election officials will accept other proof of eligibility, such as a utility bill. But the state has passed a law that requires voters to show a photo ID beginning in 2014.

For that law to take effect, the Justice Department must approve it under a “preclearance” requirement prompted by Alabama’s past history of racial discrimination at the polls. The state has yet to submit the law for approval.

Justice officials have struck down similar laws in South Carolina and Texas — two states also subject to preclearance requirements.
 

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