Turning Away The Vote

Written by Sam Wercinski

In America’s free market economy, no business would turn away potential customers. So why should American democracy turn away potential voters?

That is exactly what’s happening in 2012 in states like Arizona. And in this election, students and Latino voters could be two of the groups hit hardest by restrictive voter ID laws supported by politicians who benefit from them.

Arizona’s two systems of registering to vote has created chaos for first-time voters now facing the prospect that their first vote will not be counted. Arizona politicians require documentary proof of citizenship to accompany a state voter registration form.

This however, is not required when eligible citizens fill out the national federal registration form. Now, nearly 1500 individuals, mostly college and high school students who used the federal form are receiving confusing, bureaucratic letters asking them to provide further documentation just days before another historic election.

These voters and many others often lack an Arizona state driver’s license or other acceptable form of ID to vote at the polls and are at risk of losing their vote as responsible Americans. If the politicians had included the state issued student ID card, some of this disenfranchisement could be avoided.

The confusion arising from the difference between state and federal form requirements also means many who believed they registered successfully may arrive at the wrong polling location or be unaware that they needed to bring certain documents, which most don’t have anyway, to cast a regular ballot. A high school student living at home or a college student living in the dorms won’t have combinations of utility bills in their name or investment statements that politicians allow as ID.

Why should self-serving politicians be allowed to pass laws that restrict eligible Americans seeking to register and vote? Our country’s seniors, veterans, young people, Native Americans, Latinos, African Americans and newly sworn citizens disproportionately lack the kinds of documents that politicians selectively decide should be required.

Simply put, these laws do not affect all voters equally. In Arizona, this harsh reality is on display and the politicians who support these rules are attacking a sacred principle in our democracy – that every American citizen should have the right to vote.

If this is a principle we really believe, we shouldn’t be turning any eligible voter away. All Arizonans, and all Americans, want fair and accessible elections.


Sam Wercinski is the Executive Director of the Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation

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