Could new legislation requiring state issued photo identification to vote keep African-Americans from the polls? It’s the fear of many civil rights advocates who are calling on the Department of Justice to step in.

Currently, there are 10 states that have passed or are considering passing ID laws. Voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Montana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas may have to present licenses or birth certificates in order to cast their vote. The legislation could affect the outcome of local political battles within those states as well as influence the results in the upcoming presidential race as well.

A 2006 study by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights found that more than 20 million individuals lack a government-issued photo ID and that 24 percent of black households are without automobiles as opposed to 7 percent of white households. The disparity is greater in certain states including Wisconsin, where 78 percent of African-American males aged 18 to 24 do not have a driver’s license.

In an interview with BlackAmericaWeb, Jesse Jackson said that there were currently 5.5 million African-Americans of legal diving age who do not posses a driver’s license.   Jackson says the new ID laws impose barriers similar to the ones that the Civil Rights of Act of 1965 sought to eliminate. He pointed out the disenfranchised played a key role in national elections:

“The black vote is the deciding factor in close elections. If you take away the votes of 10 percent of the people who are black, brown, poor or on fixed incomes, you can change the outcome of an election.”

Though the laws would be statewide mandates that apply to all, civil rights advocates say ID laws would have a disproportionate effect on minorities, seniors, disables and low-income groups. Barbara R. Arnwine, executive director for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights says that the time and money needed to acquire these documents could dissuade many already of the politically disenfranchised groups from voting at all.

Not everyone is buying the ID law critics’ rhetoric though. In a recent POLITICO article, Republican and Congressional Black Caucus member Herman Cain said he thought the ID laws were fair. Cain, who recently declared his intentions to run for president, said:

“The people who fight against having some type of statewide voter ID with the picture are the very ones who know that all of the fraud is going on. We can’t get on an airplane without showing the proper ID. Why in the world shouldn’t we be able to show the proper ID in order to vote for somebody who is going to make laws that are gonna impact the people? It doesn’t make good common sense.”

Having the ID laws in place would almost certainly hurt Cain’s friends on the other side of the aisle more than his own party. Most of the groups least likely to have state issued identification historically lean in favor of Democratic Party candidates.

What’s your take on the ID laws- are they fair or unfair?  Do you think the time and cost to get a state issued photo ID will keep some African-Americans from voting in the 2012 elections?  Tell us what you think Clutchettes and gents- weigh in and share your thoughts!

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