Monday morning, the Republican National Committee released a lengthy “autopsy” of their 2012 electoral loss, much of which was devoted to the GOP’s weak standing among people of color. “It is imperative that the RNC changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our Party” the autopsy proclaims, and “the Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.”
One day later, Arkansas Republicans showed their mutual respect and spirit of caring for people of color by passing a law that will keep many of them from casting a vote.
Yesterday, the Arkansas Senate passed — on an entirely party-line vote — a so-called voter ID law requiring voters to show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. The same voter suppression measure already passed the state House with all but one of the votes for the bill coming from Republicans. These laws, which are popular among Republican lawmakers, accomplish little more than disenfranchisement. Even conservative estimates suggest that these laws will prevent 2 to 3 percent of registered voters from casting a ballot. And this impact is felt hardest by low-income voters, students and people of color — all of who tend to prefer Democrats to Republicans.
The most common argument raised in favor of voter ID laws is that they prevent in-person voter fraud, but this claim cannot be squared with reality. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls. A Wisconsin study found that only 0.00023 percent of votes are the product of such fraud. So voter ID laws disenfranchise a large chunk of voters — between 2 and 9 percent, according to different reports on their effect — in order to prevent a virtually non-existent form of voter fraud.
The bill will now go to Gov. Mike Beebe (D-AR), who should veto it.