A Way to Fix Our Politically Polarized State?

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The Huffington Post (May 30, 2012)

By DAVID HELFENBEIN – Political Contributor/ HuffPo –

I recently attended an event in New York City held by The Common Good, featuring Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, authors of the new book, It’s Even Worst Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.

Mann and Ornstein discussed the importance of expanding the electorate in order to decrease polarization in American government. In their book, they write how Republican-dominated state governments have moved in the past two years to narrow the franchise for partisan political gain.

The authors believe that such concerted efforts to raise roadblocks to voting haven’t been evident since the days of the poll tax in the 1950s and 1960s and they believe that these new efforts may increase but also note that laws to restrict or constrain voting via voter ID or other methods in Mississippi, Texas and South Carolina must be cleared in advance by the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As evidence has shown, voter ID laws place both a costly and high burden on individuals which leads to the disenfranchisement of the poor and also affects many minority voters. The proposals that Mann and Ornstein suggest (should voter ID laws be enacted) include mandating that people must be able to obtain any government ID required for voting for free and at a reasonable proximity to voting locations and require that polling places accept student IDs in addition to government issued IDs.

The legal and political consequences of disenfranchisement are, of course, not new. According to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, jurisdictions that have a history of suppressing minority voters must demonstrate that the newly enacted measure will not disproportionately disenfranchise registered minority voters. New laws enacted in several states, such as those attempted recently in Texas, have not met this standard…

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