Are U.S. Republicans genuinely worried about voter fraud, or are the legal battles playing out across the country really about reducing the vote among segments of the population that usually vote for Democrats? For Italy’s La Repubblica, columnist Frederico Rampini explains the differences between voting in Italy and America, and examines the motives of a party that opposes photo ID for sales of weapons and ammunition, but strictly insists on it for voting.
In Italy and many other countries around the globe, one is required to have an identity card. In America, in fact, you don’t. An identity card per se does not actually exist. The most common form of identification is a drivers license – or a passport for those who travel abroad (less than 20 percent of Americans). You could be asked for identification before being served an alcoholic beverage as proof that you aren’t underage; but in some U.S. states and under certain circumstances you won’t be asked for ID (as in the sale of ammunition on the Internet or weapons at “gun shows”), which you might use to go out and commit a massacre.
Then out of the blue, Republicans in many U.S. states introduced bills, according to which an ID is mandatory to register to vote or be admitted to a polling station on Election Day. This request, which may seem trivial in Europe, is in fact discriminatory in the United States. This serves to reduce the number of voters among the young, the poor and ethnic minorities: those who typically vote for Democrats. Why is this discriminatory? First of all, if you are poor and don’t read newspapers, you may not even know that these rules have been introduced, and don’t find out until Election Day, when you are unexpectedly asked for an ID: and then it’s too late. Second, getting an ID costs money and time (documents to fill out and long lines, etc.). And if you’re unemployed, Black or Hispanic, you are culturally and economically less equipped to deal with this obstacle course.
The right justifies this campaign by asserting a need to fight electoral fraud. But for the last 30 years, electoral malpractice in America has been negligible (the biggest case of “electoral fraud” in history was perpetrated in 2000 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which robbed an election victory from Al Gore). Yet this same right wing is prepared to denounce any attack on constitutional rights if it involves stricter control over who buys guns.
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