Guest Blogged by Congressman John Conyers, Cross-Posted at ConyersBlog
I have spent my more than 40 years in public service fighting for voting rights and a better democracy. Today, I am sad to say, there are proposals being made that would set us back in that struggle. A privately funded, unaccountable Commission organized by former Bush-Cheney campaign lawyer James Baker, III, and former President Jimmy Carter issued a report today that includes policy proposals that will disenfranchise over ten percent of eligible voters – a national ID requirement to vote. I need your help to fight this 21st Century poll tax today.
The simple fact is that many minority and poor voters do not have the time, money or need to purchase a drivers license. In fact, over ten percent of eligible voters in the last election did not have a photo ID. They vote by presenting other means of identification (a voter registration card, utility bill, or affidavit). This Commission is now asking Congress to deny the franchise to those voters unless they get a national ID card. The Commission makes the implausible claim that, in these times of a multibillion dollar war in Iraq and multibillion dollar restoration of the Gulf Coast, the Congress will pay for ID cards for those who cannot afford to buy them. We know this is not going to happen.
Even if you are not among these vulnerable populations, this affects you. The institution of a National ID card has throughout our history been the tool of every despotic regime the world has known. This recommendation, coupled with the Commission's recommendation of interoperable data bases of voters, is the first step toward data bases of American citizens.
Make no mistake about it, this national ID voting card is more of the same old Ken Blackwell-style Republican electoral dirty tricks, where Democratic voters are deliberately disenfranchised so that Republicans can win elections. Remember the lack of voting machines in Ohio for Democratic voters? Remember the machines that broke down or registered strange numbers of votes for George Bush or unknown third party candidates? Remember Ken Blackwell's paper weight requirements for voter registration cards?
Imagine if the Republican party can, in one fell swoop, legally prohibit more than ten percent of voters, most of them poor, minority and elderly voters, most of them Democratic voters, from being able to vote.
Please help me today. I have made the front page of my website into an action center on this issue. It will be constantly updated with actions you can take to help and up to the minute news on this issue. Thanks for your help and your continued stand for a better democracy.