Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!
Another warning: this post may not make a whole lot of sense in the later paragraphs due to the specific question that I was responding to, however, I believe the general idea is clear enough.
In 1965, part of the Civil Rights movement was to put into effect the Voting Rights Act. This act was basically to restate the 15th amendment, that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (LOC, n.d.). Of particular note in the VRA are sections 2 and 5. Section 2 prohibits practices that discriminate against race, color, or language minority groups, just like the amendment, and specifically deals with intent to discriminate. As shown by Village of Arlington Heights v Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. in 1977, the discriminatory effect alone is not sufficient to deem an action unconstitutional (Case Briefs, n.d.). Therefore, beyond the effect of discrimination, intent to discriminate must be proven. This case, despite having nothing to do with voting, provided the framework to determine whether intent to discriminate is part of the proposed legislation. Section 5, however, has some distinct differences. First, Section 5 consists of nine states, and parts of seven others, that have a history of voter discrimination. I do not know how recent that history is supposed to be, but every state that had been in the Confederacy, with the exception of Arkansas and Tennessee, as well as embattled Arizona are on that Section 5 list. There are two major differences in Section 5. First, every change of the laws regarding voting policy must be pre-approved by the US Attorney General before being put into place. Second, the law must show no discrimination in intent OR effect. This is where states like Texas and South Carolina have had issues. A law that works in Ohio may not work in Texas, or a law that works in part of California may not work in another part of the same state because Section 2 states must only satisfy “intent” while Section 5 states must satisfy both “intent” and “effect.” That should provide enough background information to understand why the law is so hotly contested in Texas and South Carolina while 31 states currently have ID laws, 15 of which require photo ID ((Herting, 2012).
Advocates of this legislation typically claim that it is to prevent voter fraud, and many of the states requiring ID have provisions that include free ID at DMVs or Department of Public Safety offices (KDH News, 2012; America Live, 2012). Opponents claim that there is no significant voter fraud, and that of the known cases, it has been supervisors and officials, not the actual voters who are performing the fraudulent actions (America Live, 2012; Yost, 2012). However, if IDs are not required, it would be near impossible to “prove” fraud without confession or otherwise monitoring the ballots, itself an ethical issue. The Huffington Post reported that Hispanics in Texas are between 50 and 200% more likely to lack ID than non-Hispanics, stating that this is a discriminatory effect (Yost, 2012). The DOJ says that the distance to the nearest ID facility, and the short hours of most ID facilities in Texas, particularly in the rural areas, makes the burden too great for these voters. Therefore, because Texas is a Section 5 state, and the effect of discrimination is claimed, this instance of identification law has the potential to be unethical. I believe that more research would need to be performed to determine the accuracy of the DOJ’s claims, considering the huge margin of potentially affected voters. Also, considering that IDs are required to drive, work, or even buy beer, it is hard to believe that law-abiding, voting citizens do not have some form of ID as is. Personally, my view on this matter is that the only people the concept of Voter IDs discriminates against are those who cannot legally obtain an ID because they are not citizens, and thus should not be permitted to vote anyway. That said, there are times that the implementation of an idea can stray from the ethical path, and that is something that must be guarded against. More information, beyond what is revealed in these news articles, is needed to determine the actual ethical component of the Texas ID law in particular, but the concept is sound for Utilitarianists: Nobody wants election fraud. The fact that voting under multiple names or dead people’s names is easy makes legitimate, law-abiding voters feel as though their voice does not matter in an election. After an election, the losing side (whether the Democrats in 2004 in Florida or the Republicans in 2008) will claim that the other is rigging the vote. Without such measures, there is no way to track fraud or prevent it. The greatest good for the greatest number would be to institute measures to restore confidence in our democracy, specifically in the electoral process.
It is 2012, and it would be very difficult to find anyone who will willingly stand up and say “I believe in discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, etc.,” except maybe Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. It is nearly universally condemned. However, there are a number of unintentional examples of discrimination that people face around the country. Some people cannot let go of old white/black animosity. Some people think anyone with brown skin is in America illegally. Some people think everyone who believes in Islam is out to destroy America.
Once again, I must refer back to the Navy, since it is the only group I have been a part of since graduating high school. The Navy officially has a policy of zero tolerance for a number of things, including sexual harassment and discrimination based on a number of factors. An example is when in training, I was the class leader, and the only female in the class of 20, and after telling a fellow student to return to his seat, he called me a derogatory term for “female.” Word got around to my instructor who asked me to come to his office. As I entered, the other student was standing at Parade Rest outside the door in his dress uniform- a sure sign that he was about to receive a serious butt-chewing. The instructor told me that he was going to be disciplined for insubordination (not listening when I told him to sit down) and disruption of the classroom. He then asked if I wanted to file sexual harassment charges for the slur he used. Officially, the Navy is proactive in addressing instances of discrimination. On the other side, after I was on a ship, I was one of three women in our division of near 90. Once you report, you are often branded a “slut” or a “b—-,” depending on whether you are friendly or not. I had a very tense relationship with one of my superiors in particular who constantly changed standards to exclude me, gave me stricter requirements to qualify than other sailors, required me to stay to perform menial tasks after releasing the rest of the sailors for the day, and went out of his way to look for ways to get me in trouble. I have strong suspicions that if those actions were not specific to my gender, then they were based on his suspicions about my personal life. When he finally did find a way to get me demoted, I wanted to appeal, but his boss (a Chief) told me not to. When the Chief was one day from transfer, he told me I should go through with my appeal. This, to me, says that the Chief knew I was being unfairly treated, but did not want it to tarnish his own reputation along with my supervisor’s. As a whole, what this tells me is that officially, on the grand scale, what may be stated as policy may not always translate to individuals with personal prejudices.
America Live. (2012, March 12). DEBATE: Are Voter Identification Laws Discriminatory. Retrieved April 26, 2012 from foxnewsinsider.com/2012/03/12/debate-are-voter-identification-laws-discriminatory
Case Briefs. (n.d.). Village of Arlington Heights v Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. Retrieved April 26, 2012 from http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-to-chemerinsky/equal-protection/village-of-arlington-heights-v-metropolitan-housing-development-corp-2/
Herting, K. (2012, April 12). DOJ Calls Texas Voter ID Law Discriminatory. Retrieved from jurist.org/paperchase/2012/04/doj-calls-texas-voter-id-law-discriminatory.php
KDH News. (2012, March 17). Voter ID Push Valid, despite Texas setback. Retrieved April 26, 2012 from http://www.kdhnews.com/news/story.aspx?s=65015
LOC. (n.d.). 15th Amendment to the Constitution. Retrieved April 26, 2012 from http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/15thamendment.html
Yost, P. (2012, March 12). Texas Voter ID Law Blocked by Justice Department. Retrieved April 26, 2012 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/texas-voter-id-justice-department_n_1339004.html