Louisiana’s Discriminatory Voter Law

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a major lawsuit against the Sate of Louisiana for discriminating against naturalized U.S. citizens being able to vote. Under a state law going back to 1874, naturalized U.S. citizens have to “prove” they truly are American by giving the state documentation like a U.S. passport or a certificate of naturalization. The problem here is that native-born Americans are only required to give an oath that they are U.S. citizens. However, naturalized U.S. citizens are not only required to give an oath they are U.S. citizens but also provide documentation that they are U.S. citizens. Failure for naturalized U.S. citizens to show documentation will mean they are denied their voting rights. The problem here is that this places not only an unacceptable burden on naturalized U.S. citizens but also means that they are denied their fundamental rights. They become second class citizens.

This process is not mentioned in the Louisiana state government website, nor does the Louisiana state government specifically mention the fact that after naturalized U.S. citizens register to vote they are then sent letters to “prove” they are U.S. citizens—something not done for native-born Americans. There is no question that the Republicans in the state are doing what they can to purge the voter rolls to help Republicans win the primaries and presidential elections. This vicious form of legal discrimination should and must be challenged so that having U.S. citizenship will have meaning. If those born and raised outside the United States do not have the same right to voter participation that native-born Americans do, then this makes naturalized U.S. citizens second class citizens in this country. Worse, letting this law stand will mean that America will be catapulted back 60 years when it was O.K. to discriminate against racial and ethnic voters (as well as naturalized citizens) from being able to vote.

In one of the greatest legal blunders in U.S. history, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that would have protected the voting rights of ethnic and racial minorities that were part of its provisions. The result has been Republican states that have used voter I.D. laws to restrict the rights of the poor, minority and ethnic voters from having access to voting in their districts. This is what we are seeing in a number of states, and Louisiana is simply one of them. In the end, American democracy loses, and that is why we need to defeat such attempts at restricting voter rights.

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