On Thursday, August 16th, The New American Movement attended a press conference sponsored by NJ Citizen Action in protest of the proposed voter ID legislature. The press conference was held by New Jersey State Assemblyman John McKeon and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. The conference was held in West Orange at the John P. Renna Jr. House and was attended mostly by senior citizens in the area. The decision was made to have it at the John P. Renna Jr. House due to the fact that Voter ID laws drastically impact the senior citizen community without driver’s licenses.
The entire conference lasted approximately 20 minutes; however, the remarks made regarding the voter ID laws were poignant in demonstrating the impact the law could have on over 20 million citizens of voting age (The Brennan Center for Justice.) Assemblyman John McKeon of New Jersey emphasized that the proposed legislation sweeping across states is openly discriminatory and merely a tactic of the conservative party to discourage individuals from exercising their democratic rights. In McKeon’s words, this legislature is a “solution looking for a problem.” Assemblyman McKeon followed that statement by noting The Brennan Center’s for Justice’s statistic that there are more reported UFO sightings in the United States than there are confirmed incidents of voter ID fraud. Admittedly a slightly absurd statistic, but places the contentious issue into perspective that voter ID has not and should not be an issue.
Assemblywoman Jasey followed McKeon’s statistics by pointing out the populations that are directly affected by this legislature: urban. Jasey reminded listeners that many people who live in the city do not have driver’s licenses due to their reliance on public transportation. With that in mind, many individuals living in the city would be ineligible to vote in elections if the proposed legislature were to come to fruition in New Jersey.
The New American Movement attended the press conference in condemnation of voter ID laws and in hopes of demonstrating how the voter ID legislation (currently passed in nine states) affects the disability community. Many individuals in the disability community do not have a state ID due to their ineligibility or inability to drive. Self-advocate Gary Rubin is concerned about the effect of the voter ID laws on the disability community “I think that a lot of people [in the disability community] aren’t going to understand, they’re not going to want to vote because of the barricades in front of them.” The lack of IDs for the majority of disability community members creates an issue for those voters in states where voter ID policies have been passed – in Assemblyman McKeon’s words; this truly is a solution looking for a problem.
Yet, as the Assemblymen have pointed out in the conference, the problem that this solution is seeking is trivial. That being said, with voter ID legislation passed in nine states, a new problem has emerged: the burden of creating identifications for individuals prior to the November elections. Assemblywoman Jasey ended her remarks with a reminder that individuals lacking the financial means or transportation to ID centers (the majority of which are poor or elderly) outwardly discourages citizens from voting and weakens our democracy.
The press conference closed with the Assemblymen opening the floor to questions, with one woman posing a question to Assemblyman McKeon “Rather than this becoming a contentious distraction for both [political] parties in the election, is there a middle ground in which you [the politicians] could issue voter IDs to all individuals who attend the polls this year?” The Assemblyman redirected the question; however, the woman left the press conference attendees with this food for thought: voter ID laws are merely a distraction on both sides from larger issues affecting our country. Rather than focusing on who is voting, the politicians should focus on why we are voting.