Nov 6, 2014
Voting is, without a doubt, a quintessential part of participating in any kind of government remotely resembling a democracy. We hear it from a young age from our TV’s, celebrities, and from an increasing number of media platforms across technology. Unfortunately for some in the great state of Texas, however, those messages fall on many individuals who can’t vote even though they truly want to.
Texas’ voter ID act is a strange beast, some tout it as a great way to keep voting fraud to a minimum, especially in a state where unauthorized immigration from other countries is a reality. That said, others still see the laws as tackling a problem that doesn’t actually exist, or at least not on the scale that many in the state (and by extension their local representatives) might think.
These past couple of days, ballot counting has shown a landslide victory for republican candidates both across the state and across the country. While many, many factors come into play during an election cycle, some people can’t help but see voter ID laws as the new form of Gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering, if you don’t know, comes from the process in which states are divided up into voting districts. The regions are meant to make it so that an even number of voters will be weighing in on each representative for a state. Ideally, this would be purely geographical, where chunks of the state are divided up in an easy to figure out way. However, the process was muddled up way back in 1812 by Elbridge Gerry, the governor of Massachusetts at the time. Commentators discovered that, rather than simple shapes, the voting districts in Gerry’s state were strange, and one even resembled a salamander. What was happening is that the zones were being carved up to try and grab demographics that were easy to win over by one political party while placing others outside the zone. It could also be used to dilute strong areas for one party or the other. In the end, this practice was called “Gerrymandering” and, while technically illegal, likely still occurs to an extent today.
Voter ID laws, some argue, much in the same way help to cut out certain demographics more than others, under the guise of avoiding fraud. Many ID’s, like out of state driver’s licenses aren’t accepted, even if you can prove you live in the state. This means that many students, who are traditionally younger (and also vote democrat more often than their older counterparts) can’t easily vote in Texas (while the process is quite easy in many other states for out of state students). While lawmakers state that the laws have no ties to specific political affiliation, it is almost exclusively republican senators and representatives that author and vote in favor of such bills.
Other groups said to be more affected than others are minorities or those with poor English skills, who, while legally entitled to live in the state, might not be able to easily navigate the long bureaucratic process that’s required in many cases in order to obtain an ID that the state’s laws deem acceptable. While this election cycle is over, you’ll surely hear more about such laws going forward.