Sunday was the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, and I wrote a piece about John Lewis’s speech to mark the occasion. (Lewis was then the 23-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC], and the organizers of the march forced him to tone down his rhetoric before he hit the podium.)
Today, Lewis is a member of the House of Representatives, not a youth activist. But his concern for students and for voting rights persists. And this morning he’s got an op-ed in the New York Times talking about new threats to student access to the ballot box. Here’s an excerpt:
The most common new requirement, that citizens obtain and display unexpired government-issued photo identification before entering the voting booth, was advanced in 35 states and passed by Republican legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Missouri and nine other states — despite the fact that as many as 25 percent of African-Americans lack acceptable identification.
Having fought for voting rights as a student, I am especially troubled that these laws disproportionately affect young voters. Students at state universities in Wisconsin cannot vote using their current IDs (because the new law requires the cards to have signatures, which those do not). South Carolina prohibits the use of student IDs altogether. Texas also rejects student IDs, but allows voting by those who have a license to carry a concealed handgun. These schemes are clearly crafted to affect not just how we vote, but who votes.
Go read the whole thing. It’s a big deal.