I think at this point, most people have heard about the voter ID laws being instituted through GOP legislation. They’re promoted as being necessary to prevent “voter fraud”–you know, that democracy-destroying scourge that’s been ravaging…well nothing, really, because it’s virtually nonexistent. Yes, it’s totally legitimate to waste taxpayer dollars and legislative time on preventing something that is so rare it makes landing on mars look as common as a full moon. Totally important. Yes. Indeed. (Take it away, Jon.)
But primary figures in the GOP are creating a firestorm, very purposefully lying about this, fear-baiting a gullible public so they can pass laws steeped in bigotry:
That bigotry, by the way? Very real:
If you’re one who thinks it’s “so easy” to get a photo ID that this shouldn’t be an issue, let me stop you right there: That is an incredibly privileged statement to make.
Take, for example, the horrible roadblocks faced by transgendered citizens. Our country’s accepted ideas of gender identification very specifically punish those who fall outside of the cis spectrum. This is how voter ID laws are transphobic.
Many minorities face difficulties beyond what even I experience, but for the sake of discussion, I’m going to talk about my own experiences here, to maybe give those who dismiss these laws reason to pause and consider why their dismissal is privileged, and why supporting voter ID laws is supporting bigotry.
I’ve always had great difficulty getting a driver’s license, because I’m legally blind in one eye. I am not physically able to pass the eye tests at the DMV, and need a waiver from my doctor. When I was young, before I realized this, I spent a long day sitting at the vision exam, trying over and over again, crying into the periphery machine, praying that I could guess the right answers and be able to get that ID. It didn’t work, and ended with me sobbing in front of the DMV, heartbroken that I was too disabled to get a driver’s license. This is how voter ID laws are ableist.
I learned from that experience that before ever attempting to get a license, I needed to get a waiver from my doctor. And for a little while, that worked fine. But it’s hard to get that waiver when I can’t afford to go to that doctor, because I don’t have insurance. So I spent a good bit of time without valid identification this year, because of poverty. This is how voter ID laws are classist.
When I finally got the vision waiver and made another attempt at getting my license, I was informed that my state instituted a new law that voided all birth certificates issued before 2010. So the original birth certificate that my parents had saved and kept immaculate since 1984? Void. And you know what you have to do to get a new one? Pay for it. So here’s a doctor’s visit I couldn’t afford, followed by a new birth certificate I couldn’t afford. This is how voter ID laws are classist.
This year was my first experience trying to get a license as a wheelchair user. When I finally got my birth certificate and vision waiver together, they just found more roadblocks to throw in my way. I got bounced around and told different things by each person I spoke with, sometimes contradicting the information both on their handouts and on their website, and directly contradicting the words of the person one desk over. They refused to give me a license, even though I had all the necessary forms. I was in and out of the DMV for over six hours trying to get what each different person told me I needed. First my partner got stuck driving me all over town, trying to collect various proofs of ID and residency that I didn’t actually need, and then my mother had to leave work early to take over for him. I was in absolute, undying agony all day, and still, I got rejected again and again. I only finally got an empathetic person willing to actually pay attention to my documentation when I wheeled away from the desk after yet another dismissal and burst into tears.
And by the way, in a country where poverty is inextricably linked to race (which is itself resultant of so much bigotry I can’t even touch on it here), there is absolutely no way to enact classist barriers to voting without unjustly punishing people of color. This is how voter ID laws are racist.
If you had no difficulty obtaining a driver’s license or photo ID, I’m happy for you, really. But to assume that everyone’s experience will be as simple as yours is naive. Many of us struggle with such “simple” tasks to a degree that it would astonish you. (Hell, throw in how these roadblocks can majorly trigger someone’s anxiety, and you’ve got another dash of ableism to spice things up.) We’re not lazy. We’re not stupid. We’re not demanding special treatment. But we’re being punished in ways that you aren’t, simply because of who we are. And when the government can impose this many restrictions on our basic rights to legal identification, you expect us to sit idly by, accepting that we are unable to vote thanks to the political party who’s trying to strip us of even more rights?
No. Just…no. This is bigotry, plain and simple, and no one who cares about true equality should accept it.