Voter Disenfranchisement's Real Female Face

The Nation writer Brentin Mock tackles voter-registration issues and how to ensure that the movement focuses on the right demographic.

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Brentin Mock, contributor to the Nation, spoke with voting-rights "evangelist" Faye Anderson, who said that the focus of the voter-registration movement should be re-evaluated. Instead of concentrating on registering elderly persons, Mock argues, the movement should target middle-aged women without driver's licenses. 

"Advocates have done themselves a disservice by bringing up these 80- and 90-year-old voters. Those are not the votes who are disproportionately impacted by voter ID laws," said Anderson in a phone interview. "As an advocate you want to influence public opinion and you’re not influencing them if you are putting up the faces of 80- and 90-year-old voters."

Elderly voters losing out on voter participation is a very real thing, as evidenced recently in Wisconsin. But instead, she says advocates should be focused on voters who resemble her: A middle-aged New York transplant living in Philadelphia, who commutes up and down the East Coast, traveling without a driver’s license. Like many New Yorkers, Anderson doesn’t drive so she doesn’t need one. She has a non-driver’s photo identification from New York, and other than that she has a passport. It wasn’t easy getting a New York ID, Anderson told me, and she’s concerned chiefly with women like her who might also have troubles getting the ID they need to vote, especially if they’ve been recently married, divorced or if they’ve moved, all of which could lead to name and address mismatches on Election Day. 

The new Pennsylvania photo voter ID law  is "disenfranchising by design to make voters jump through all these hoops," said Anderson. "It’s unreasonable that women, with all that’s going on in their lives, will then have time to sit down and Google ‘where do I get my birth certificate,’ ‘where do I find my marriage certificate,’ ‘where to find the closest social security office,’ the hours they’re open, how to get there, and once there do they have all the documents they need." 

Read Brentin Mock's entire op-ed at the Nation.

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