It’s been 51 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and there have been millions of eyes on the hard-fought battle that was finally won.
We have witnessed documentaries and movies such as “Selma,” which have permeated the airwaves with the historic events that led to the congressional passage of the law. However, even as we again celebrate the victory, there are those whose eyes remain focused on making sure the right to vote remains out of reach across the country.
AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to addressing the needs and interests of Americans age 50 and older, is once again raising its voice over the issue of voting rights. On Nov. 8, Missourians will be asked to vote on constitutional Amendment 6, which states in part: “…voters may be required by law…to verify one’s identity, citizenship and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification.”
We believe that requiring such identification would create unnecessary and costly burdens for more than 200,000 older voters, people of color, people with disabilities, young people, those who frequently move, individuals with a low-income and persons in large households. To disenfranchise people from exercising their voting rights upends the political system.
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Of particular concern are the many people over 65 who have given up driving privileges, and few have replaced driver’s licenses with a photo ID. We are also very concerned about the elderly who may find themselves in transition in the months or weeks before Election Day.
For many, a move to a new facility after a health crisis is the only move they have made after living in their own homes for decades. This is a very stressful time in their lives — and those without substantial help from family members will struggle to find the right documentation in time to vote.
Additionally, there are those Missourians over 65 who were born before recording births was standard procedure. Even if the identification itself were to be free, voters — especially women — often must purchase copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees and other documents to show name changes.
AARP believes that the right to vote comprises the most basic of all political rights. Older individuals vote in high numbers, and AARP has long advocated for fair and simple procedures that facilitate this high level of participation. AARP supports fair and effective procedures to detect and prevent voter fraud.
However, the organization does not support procedures that reflect bias or that permit arbitrary or discriminatory reviews or voter challenges that may discourage voter turnout. We must maintain important voting tools in Missouri’s system that take into account the needs of older voters and others.
Passage of constitutional Amendment 6 would put these rights at risk. We urge all Missourians to vote “no” on this ballot issue.
We want to protect the voting rights of all Missourians.
Sidney McCarther retired as an accounting manager for Amoco Corporation (now BP). He is the AARP Missouri volunteer state president and lives in Kansas City.