Voting Rights and the War on Women
Over the past few months we’ve seen the war on women escalate dramatically— Republican legislators all across the country have passed dangerous laws to restrict women’s healthcare access, actively opposed equal pay legislation, and have, in more than one instance, even silenced women lawmakers who oppose anti-abortion laws.
But now women’s rights are being denied at an unlikely place – the ballot box. According to a study released by NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, a leading authority on voting rights in America, a rash of restrictive voting laws being proposed and passed by Republican leaning legislatures across the country have the potential to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters this November.
Proponents of these laws (which vary from state to state) say that they’re meant to combat voter fraud. But voter fraud is a virtually nonexistent problem, and the proposed “solutions,” from demanding that voters present a photo I.D. at the polls to proof of citizenship requirements during registration, disproportionately prevent Democratic leaning groups like young people and minorities from voting.
What does this have to do with women? According to the Brennan study, proof of citizenship requirements (in addition to promoting racial profiling) would have also have a surprising effect on voting –age women, 48% of whom don’t have access to a birth certificate with their current name on it, and 66% of whom don’t have access to any proof of citizenship (like a passport) with their current name. Yet over the past year twelve states have introduced such requirements, and they’ve passed in Alabama, Kansas, and Tennessee.
It may not seem that hard to get a birth certificate or a passport. But getting a new birth certificate can cost more than $40, and a passport is $97. For naturalized citizens, new documents can be even more expensive – up to $220. The cost can be prohibitive for many, but even in states where photo identification is provided for free, the process of getting these documents (including time off work and travel to government offices) can be even more of a problem, especially for low income women who may not be able to take time off work. And processing time for requests can take as long as a year, which means an eligible citizen who doesn’t have a passport or birth certificate could be prevented from voting this November.
The right to vote is one of the most fundamental in our democracy – we need to make sure women have access to the polls so that we can elect the kind of leaders who will stand up for our access to healthcare, education, and economic equality.