This headline in the Washington Post a few days ago got my back up for overlooking what, to me, is obvious: rural voters are disadvantaged by voter ID laws because they typically have longer distances to travel to get the required voter ID, usually available only from a state office such as a bureau of motor vehicles. The headline is "Getting a Photo ID So You Can Vote is Easy. Unless You're Poor, Black, Latino, or Elderly." Not only does the story not use either "rural" or "distance," it illustrates the hassles of getting a photo ID with an urban example, shared by a Houston lawyer:
“I hear from people nearly weekly who can’t get an ID either because of poverty, transportation issues or because of the government’s incompetence,” said Chad W. Dunn, a lawyer with Brazil & Dunn in Houston, who has specialized in voting rights work for 15 years.
“Sometimes government officials don’t know what the law requires,” Dunn said. “People take a day off work to go down to get the so-called free birth certificates. People who are poor, with no car and no Internet access, get up, take the bus, transfer a couple of times, stand in line for an hour and then are told they don’t have the right documents or it will cost them money they don’t have.”
“A lot of them just give up,” Dunn said.About the only acknowledgement I've seen of the burden of distance in relation to the recent (in the last decade or so) proliferation of voter ID laws was by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in October, 2014. In dissenting then from the Supreme Court's summary affirmation of the Fifth Circuit in Veasey v. Perry, she observed that some 400,000 eligible Texas voters “face round-trip travel times of three hours or more to the nearest DPS office.” Even the plaintiffs/voter rights groups don't seem to be talking about this issue in their briefs.
It's not clear if the media are taking their cues from the courts, or vice versa, but I have complained in this forum previously about how the media are now talking about access to abortion in Texas--nearly three years after the passage of Texas H.B. 2. They are talking principally about the challenges faced by urban women, as in this recent piece, which I wrote about here. (Read more at the abortion label/tag)
I've taken to Tweeting about this oversight whenever I get a chance, and today, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which is helping litigation the constitutionality of Texas's voter ID law this week, re-Tweeted and "Liked" my Tweets on this subject. Will it stick with those who make the decisions on how to litigate these cases? I'll believe it when I see it.