Can’t Drive? Can’t vote.
by Ozzie Zehner
Can’t Drive? Can’t vote.
In the United States, democracy is designed for those who can drive – especially in states with new voter ID laws.
Suburbia is upping the bar of democracy for poor Americans according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law [PDF]. For instance, a third of Mississippi residents without vehicle access live more than ten miles from an ID-issuing office. In a state with little public transit infrastructure, the stresses on democratic representation become monumental.
The report points out that “voter ID laws are especially burdensome for citizens in high-poverty areas. Not only are these eligible voters among the least likely to have photo ID, they are also among the least likely to have access to government services, such as public transportation.”
Of the voter ID states, Pennsylvania is the largest investor in transit at $94.77 per resident. Compare that to New York, which invests $224.85 per capita in transit, the nation’s highest.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin spends $22.31 per capita on transit. Indiana just $8.63. Mississippi and Georgia invest less than a dollar. The State of Alabama invests nothing.
Fran Taylor from DC Streets Blog claims that “new state laws mandating photo ID for voters threaten to disenfranchise nondrivers, and the skewed elections that would result could lead to political control by forces hostile to transit, cities, and even Safe Routes to Schools.” As fossil fuel prices become more volatile, so may legislative support for the very transit investments we’ll need to deal with the shocks – investments that citizens overwhelmingly support.
The United States is a country of freedom and democracy for all. If you can get there.
Read reviews of my new environmental book:
“The United States is a country of freedom and democracy for all. If you can get there” – actually “if you can drive there.” The drivers license as de facto national identity cards might be a good section for the next edition of “Green Illusions.” I have heard some in the USA say that national identity cards are an infringement of liberty, a step towards totalitarianism etc, etc. They appear not to recognize that their drivers license actually is one, as it used for identification in almost all cases. This confusion of identity with driving might account for the near reverent attitudes towards cars and the disregard for public transit. A decoupling of identity and driving may go some way towards dismantling such corrosive mindsets, and perhaps help in the “drive” towards greater sustainability.