Excluded From the Polls

By Guest Columnist Jan 10, 2008

contributed by NWFCO Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board — the Indiana voter ID case. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, this case "will determine which American citizens are able to exercise their right to vote and which Americans are not." They characterize Indiana’s law as "the most restrictive ID law in America." We all know that voter ID laws serve one purpose and one purpose only: stop people of color and low-income people from voting. But, really, it’s race-neutral, so no problem. It’s the same story with Washington state’s voter law, which has one of the most expansive felony disenfranchisement provisions in the country. People convicted of felonies can’t restore their voting rights until they’ve paid off all the money they owe due to the conviction. For many of them, that’s a lifetime struggle, even if it’s been years since they have served their sentences. And, of course, felony status is a race by proxy. According to the Washington state Supreme Court, the law doesn’t discriminate on the basis of wealth, so no constitutional problem. Well, what about race? In its review earlier this year, the court passed on considering whether the law is racially discriminatory. So, it stands. A lot is being made about how the current round of presidential elections’ evidences progress. Yet, reflecting on the New Hampshire primaries today in the New York Times, Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center writes of "the longstanding pattern of pre-election polls overstating support for Black candidates among white voters." There can be little counterweight to this trend if voters of color remain systematically excluded from the polls. Julie Chinitz, Northwest Federation of Community Organizations(NWFCO) Research Associate