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Sierra Daily

Jul 05, 2012

Stealing Environmental Votes

VotersThe nationwide efforts to disenfranchise likely pro-environmental voters that I report on in the current issue of Sierra ("Can I See Your ID?") are ramping up as the election approaches. In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed two bills allegedly meant to combat non-existant "voter fraud," declaring "Voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote."

No such political bravery, unfortunately, was forthcoming in Pennsylvania. There, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, more than 750,000 registered voters may be disenfranchised by that state's "voter ID" law, which requires voters to present certain kinds of photo identification before casting their ballots in November. The paper compared voter registration rolls with Pennsylvania Department of Transportation databases, and determined that as many as 9.2 percent of the state's voters may lack drivers licenses.

[F]or most voters, the Pennsylvania driver's license is the standard photo ID. The disclosure that 9 percent of the state's registered voters don't have one - or an alternative, nondriver PennDot photo ID - provides a clearer picture of the hurdle set up by the state's new voter ID requirement.

Numerous studies show that African-Americans, Latinos, and young people--groups more strongly in support of environmental protection than the populace at large--disproportionately figure among those lacking photo identification. Here's Kevin Drum of Mother Jones on the subject:

In 2007 . . . the Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity and Race released a study of Indiana voters showing that among whites, the middle-aged, and the middle class, about 90 percent possessed photo ID. Among blacks, the young, and the poor—all of whom vote for Democrats at high rates—the rate was about 80 percent.    

In a close election--of which we've seen more than a few in recent years--that's more than enough to tip the balance.

Image by Digiphoto/iStock

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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