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License and Registration Please?

Social media over the past 5-6 years has risen as a source to get your word out and it has been so influential that it helped President Obama’s campaign in the 2008 election. Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, tons of blogging platforms and now smart phone applications are becoming strong tools for a good campaign.

On Valentine’s Day I had the opportunity to attend a panel on voter identification and the ways many state governments are slowly making it harder and harder for citizens to vote. Currently 8 US states require all voters to have a photo ID present before they can enter the polls.

Some people (like myself before this panel) may be wondering what the big deal is. If they’re US citizens then they must have some sort of photo ID, so why not let the laws pass? Well, the panel, (made up of Vanessa Cardenas, Rashad Robinson, Faye Anderson, Alan Rosenblatt, Eric Rodriguez and Erika Maye) explained the problems with strict voter ID laws.

Speaker Nicole Austin-Hillery presented a slideshow made up of facts from the Brennan Center Report on Voting Changes. The report displayed some alarming information. 11% of Americans lack a photo ID, and 34% of women lack their proof of citizenship. Thirty-four percent!

As the panel (which was streamed live online) continued, the speakers encouraged viewers using Twitter to put “#capvoterid” in their tweets so it would trend and get more people to pay attention to the issue at hand.VoterID smart phone application

Faye Anderson stole the attention of the attendees with colorful commentary and excitement on how she was going to keep these laws from passing, saying “I don’t like to fight, but I don’t like to back down from a fight either.”

Anderson then went on to describe a new smart phone application she was working on that will keep people informed on what their state’s stance is on voter ID. While the app is still under construction, she did give a number that voters can text to get information about their state. The number Anderson gave for an example was for the state of Wisconsin, so I gave it a try. I simply sent a text saying “Democracy” to 1-608-729-7020 and received information on how to find out the state’s voter-ID laws.

So how do these new laws effect women? Well, if 34% of women lack proof of citizenship, then that may make attaining a photo ID more difficult since most DMV’s require some sort of proof, typically a birth certificate. Not to mention women who get married and change their last name and address! If their state is following a stricter system, then they will be unable to change their address at the poll without proof of their new address. As Faye Anderson joked, “she finally put a ring on it, but she can’t find the damn license!”

The panel tried their hardest to explain that this was not about political party affiliation, but about just getting the word out for people to vote, and pay attention to how their voting rights are being restricted.