States' efforts to curve voting fraud have attracted an outcry from Democrats, but Laura Murphy, the Washington Chapter head of the American Civil Liberties Union upped the ante Thursday when she compared recent voter identification laws to poll taxes and Jim Crow-era laws.
"No eligible citizen should have to pay to vote," Murphy says. "The ACLU believes requiring voters to obtain a government-issued photo ID in order to vote is tantamount to a poll tax." [See the GOP's top Senate targets for 2012.]
Murphy argued during a presentation at the National Press Club that the new laws have been adopted by largely Republican-controlled state houses and target minorities in the same way literacy tests and poll taxes once did.
"More than 21 million Americans of voting age lack documentation that would satisfy these photo ID laws, and these Americans are disproportionately low income, minorities, elderly and disabled."
Murphy warns the new laws disenfranchise voters like 84-year-old Ruthelle Frank, a plantif in an ACLU lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin. Frank, who has voted in every election since 1948, alleges the state violated her constitutional right to vote by requiring her to show a photo ID.
Frank does not have a government-issued ID or a birth certificate because she was born at home in the 1920s and acquiring the necessary paperwork to obtain an ID could cost her $200.
"While in some states the voter ID is provided free of charge, the supporting documents, the birth certificates, the marriage certificates, the passport can add up to significant costs, especially for low income people," Murphy says.