As the U.S. marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, five states, all controlled by Republicans, enacted had new voter-identification laws that could make it harder for blacks and other minorities to cast ballots.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University reports that Arkansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Virginia all enacted new or more restrictive voter-ID laws. The Brennan Center said 25 percent of voting-age blacks, 16 percent of voting-age Hispanics and 15 percent of voting-age Americans in households earning less than $35,000 lack the sort of approved IDs required by the laws.
The Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority voted to overturn a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that requested several states and localities, most of them in the South, to get federal approval before changing their voting laws. The Justice Department used this provision to block voter-ID laws in Texas and South Carolina, saying they unfairly burdened minority voters.
Proponents say the laws are needed to curb voter fraud, which studies have shown is virtually non-existent. Out of the 6.9 million votes cast in North Carolina last year, 121 ballots were forwarded to local prosecutors to see if there was anything fraudulent, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
At the Aug. 28 Lincoln Memorial ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march, former President Bill Clinton criticized the new laws. “A great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to buy an assault weapon,” Clinton said to applause.