Whither Lawyers’ Role in Championing Voting Rights?

By District of Columbia Bar

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The D.C. Bar President Tom Williamson discusses a lawyer's role in voting rights in this months President's message. Below you will find an excerpt of his column published in The Washington Lawyer:

"In 2011 and 2012 alone, 11 states—Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin—have passed new voter ID laws that require citizens to produce photo identification to exercise their right to vote. The ostensible purpose of these laws, to protect against voter fraud, is facially legitimate. However, the U.S. Department of Justice and numerous civil rights organizations have objected vociferously on the ground that these new laws will disproportionately prevent people of color from being able to exercise their right to vote. Because of the federal preclearance process under the Voting Rights Act and pending litigation in federal and state court, several of these new laws are currently not being allowed to take effect.

Media coverage of the new voter ID laws has portrayed the pending litigation as a battleground for partisan, tactical maneuvering. The conventional wisdom is that the new laws will tend to favor Republican candidates. The premise is that minorities are more likely to vote Democratic; therefore, if the new laws reduce minority turnout, Republican candidates will be the beneficiaries. Social scientists who have studied this issue seem to agree that these laws will disproportionately reduce minority turnout, but there is disagreement about whether the reduced turnout will have a material effect on the outcome of elections in November."

Read the full article here