IJReview: Voter ID laws not racist because Mandela

The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal brought by Kansas and Arizona asking them to allow the states to impose proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration in federal elections. Registrants are already required to swear to their citizenship on penalty of perjury, and the relevant federal agency had already told the states that their request was frivolous.

But that didn’t stop IJReview from taking a dig at the Court’s decision with one of the odder arguments I’ve seen in favor of voting rights restrictions: Nelson Mandela wore a shirt that said “Get an ID,” so American voter ID requirements can’t be racist:

The voter ID debate in the United States has been driven largely by accusations of “racism” – implying that minorities are somehow differently abled to get even free IDs before elections…

…Well, check out the T-shirt that a now-deceased national figure has on in one of the most racially divided nations of his day:



IJReview isn’t the first to trot out this argument. The article is a lazy re-hashing of previous posts from conservative outlets such as The Daily Caller, Breitbart and Allen West — most of which were written shortly following Mandela’s death.

Of course, this argument from association doesn’t hold up in an American context. President Obama and those who worked on his campaigns told supporters to make sure they had the proper IDs in order to vote, too. That doesn’t mean Obama supports voter ID laws; it means that he recognized the reality of the laws on the books, and wanted to make sure they disenfranchised as few people as possible.

In fact, the voter education campaign undertaken by President Obama in 2012 as part of his Get Out the Vote program, providing lists of which IDs were considered valid in each state, far surpassed those of his Republican counterparts. I wonder why.

What’s more, as the Supreme Court also held this term, when it comes to determining whether a law discriminates based on race, the motives matter far less than the effect. We don’t have to have a lawmaker on tape saying “let’s keep those black people from voting” (even though we more or less do) in order to invalidate a law that can be shown, quantitatively, to keep black people from voting. That isn’t just some wild-eyed hypothetical, either. We know that the voting restrictions enacted throughout Republican-controlled states in recent years have had racially disproportionate effects, regardless as to why their proponents say they want to enact them.

Appropriating Nelson Mandela to support racist policies wasn’t cool in 2013. It isn’t cool today.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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7 Responses to “IJReview: Voter ID laws not racist because Mandela”

  1. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Ah, a poor concerned troll with faulty information. I’m a very lucky person, because I have had health insurance for my entire adult life. That covers a lot of territory. I have never needed a photo ID.

  2. Perplexed says:

    I don’t understand why there is still any debate or dissent about voter
    i.d. Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t Obamacare mandate that
    EVERYONE have health insurance? Health Insurance requires photo
    identification. Therefore, Obamacare mandates that EVERYONE have a photo
    i.d. It. Is. The. Law.

  3. timncguy says:

    The damned shirt doesn’t say the ID has to have a government issued photo on it, does it????

  4. Blackbird says:

    Actually, there’s a simple explanation for this photo.
    I have (journalist) colleagues that worked in South Africa during the early turmoil and confusion for that first election after Apartheid was lifted.

    During the Apartheid era, township blacks were not allowed to vote, thus it was never required of them to own or obtain “voter ID”. After Apartheid was lifted, prior to the first election – there was a huge scramble and drive to get all those living in the townships an ID, with an ID they were allowed to register to vote.

  5. SkippyFlipjack says:

    So freakin stupid. Right, voting works differently in different countries. Mandela is referring to the way things are done in South Africa. Maybe they’ve had actual voter impersonation fraud there, unlike in our country. Maybe he just wants people to vote and is acknowledging the process used there, not endorsing it.

    Conservatives. Absolutely against judging our laws by other countries’ standards, except when they aren’t.

  6. mhandrh says:

    The article should have identified the IJReview.
    Claiming to be independent, Independent Journal Review is actually a RW site, and claimed as such by the conservatives.

  7. SkippyFlipjack says:

    IJ Review is pathetic. I was first introduced to that rag when they were posting articles about the weapons used in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting based on information circulated in the hours after the shooting, which had been corrected/debunked within 24 hours of the shooting. IJ Review eventually buried a correction somewhere at the bottom of the page (I think.. if they did at all) rather than put at the top “the rest of this story is false”. They’re a joke of a news site; at the time it was the work of two guys, I’m guessing they’ve grown and have added more BS artists by now.

    I wouldn’t waste time reporting on what they’re up to.

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