The report, "Segregating American Citizenship," found large numbers of Latinos could be disenfranchised because of voter-roll purges in 16 states, laws requiring proof of citizenship in three states and mandated photo-IDs in nine states. An estimated 16 percent of Latinos don't have the required ID, the study found.
Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis said:
The pattern is unmistakable. State after state has moved to obstruct the ability of millions of Latino citizens to participate in our democracy. This concerted effort targeting Latinos and other voters of color not only undermines the principles of our constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, but also impairs the fundamental American value of ensuring all citizens have an equal voice.The situation in Florida illustrates one of the problems:
In 2000 and 2004 Florida purges were purportedly aimed at removing ineligible people with felony convictions from the rolls, but instead they erroneously identified tens of thousands of eligible citizens with no criminal records. These purges disproportionately harmed African Americans, who in 2000 showed up on Election Day to find that their names had been wrongfully removed from voter lists. The New York Times analyzed the impact of the illegal purge, “In a presidential election battleground state that decided the 2000 race by giving George W. Bush a margin of only 537 votes, the effect could be significant: black voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, while Hispanics in Florida tend to vote Republican.” But with the subsequent influx of nearly half a million Puerto Ricans in Central Florida and the changing loyalties of other Florida Latinos who are now more likely to vote Democratic,the purges have taken on a different target this year.States, like Pennsylvania, that have mandated restrictive photo ID laws for voting present a special problem for Latinos, particularly immigrants. It can be difficult for many of them to obtain the underlying documentation needed to prove they are who they say they are. Often, names on records don't exactly match. For immigrant Latinos born at home or informally adopted, the documents may not exist in the first place.
In April 2012, Florida initiated an admittedly inaccurate voter purge of alleged noncitizens. At least 82% of those on Florida’s April 2012 purge list of 2,600 registered voters are Latino, Black, or Asian American. In Miami-Dade County, where most of the targeted voters live, more than 98% of 562 people who responded to notice letters proved that they were indeed eligible U.S. citizens and thus mistakenly placed on the purge list.
Photo ID requirements place an extra burden on Puerto Ricans because Puerto Rico has invalidated vast numbers of birth certificates issued before 2010 to curb widespread identity theft. Puerto Ricans are born citizens, but those living in the States must obtain a new birth certificate before they can get a photo ID.
Voter laws designed to present obstacles and sow confusion aren't all that keeps the Latino election turnout low. In a survey, nearly 30 percent said they were not registered, and 51 percent reported that they did not vote. That is nearly twice the percentage of non-Latino whites who are unregistered and compared with the 38 percent of whites who don't vote. Changing those statistics will require more than defeating voter suppression.
In that vein, the Advancement Project makes several recommendations, including: educating high schoolers about voting and giving them an on-campus chance to register; providing same-day registration (as California has just done); providing more bilingual resources—registration documents, voter information, civic education materials and ballots; training election officials to engage in more outreach into the Latino community; and, recruiting more Latino election officials.
The ultimate solution to the voter suppression that has been going on for decades but became so prominent in the past few years is to elect public officials who see it as their duty—their pro-active duty—to encourage all eligible citizens to register to vote and to ensure that their right to do so is not blocked by laws motivated by partisan advantage and special rules that have differential impacts. Universal suffrage is the cornerstone of democracy and it is no hyperbole that those who seek to make it less than universal are unAmerican.
This widget allows you to print a state registration form that you can fill out and mail in. Or, if you live in a state that allows online registration, it will take you directly to the appropriate secretary of state's office where you can take care of business: