Fox News regular Jay Sekulow claimed that voting is a privilege as he went to bat in support of the Texas voter ID law today, and denied that such laws disenfranchise eligible voters. In fact, Americans are constitutionally protected from having their vote denied on the basis of race - which the Department of Justice has said would happen under Texas' law -- and voter ID laws have already disenfranchised hundreds of voters, and could prevent millions more from voting in this year's elections.
Sekulow was on Fox's America Live, debating the Texas voter ID law that was passed in May 2011, but was blocked by the Department of Justice because:
As a state with a history of voter discrimination, Texas must get preclearance from the Department of Justice for changes in election law. The DOJ blocked Texas' law under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring that it would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters.
In his defense of Texas' voter ID law, Sekulow said: “Look, voting is a privilege. I mean, there are things you have to do to vote.” He also suggested that he didn't find “asking for identification to make sure you're the person that's actually casting the vote” at all problematic.
But Sekulow is in the wrong here - the Justice Department found that the Texas law would disproportionately affect minorities, which is unconstitutional. As the Department of Justice notes, the Voting Rights Act:
[C]odifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment's permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color.
Throughout the Fox segment, Sekulow repeatedly denied that voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters and said that in some cases the IDs are available free of charge. However, not only can voters incur significant costs for the underlying documents needed to get those supposedly free IDs, but existing voter ID laws have already been found to have disenfranchised hundreds of voters during the 2008 election cycle.
An investigation by the Associated Press found:
As more states put in place strict voter ID rules, an AP review of temporary ballots from Indiana and Georgia, which first adopted the most stringent standards, found that more than 1,200 such votes were tossed during the 2008 general election.
During sparsely attended primaries this year in Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee, the states implementing the toughest laws, hundreds more ballots were blocked.
The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy for this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.
Additionally, the Brennan Center for Justice estimated that 3.2 million potential voters lack state-issued photo ID and could be affected by voter ID laws passed in five states since 2010.
The fact is, voter fraud remains incredibly rare and the evidence that voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters -- and the potential that they can have to discriminate against minorities -- is overwhelming.