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Stop putting up barriers to voting

This Independence Day, as we grilled our hotdogs, lit our firecrackers, and raised a glass to our country, we should have also remembered what it is we were really celebrating: not just the birth of a nation, but the birth of a new kind of nation, one founded on the voice of the people.
One voice, one vote: this idea is the bedrock of our democracy, and the fundamental principle that the founders of our country fought and died to protect.
For more than two centuries, new Americans have traveled to this country in search of this basic freedom, many leaving harsh regimes and dictatorships that sought to silence their voices.
Today, new citizens are studying hard, passing their citizenship exams, and being sworn in as Americans, full of enthusiasm for voting in the election this November and making their voices heard for the first time. Yet as they prepare to exercise this fundamental right, some Americans — native-born and immigrant alike — will be systematically prevented from voting by partisan efforts to trim certain voters from the rolls.  
At the same time as foreign-born Americans register to vote, many native-born Americans are being shut out of our democratic processes. Partisan operatives are using tactics such as voter caging, and strict voter ID laws to deter specific demographics from voting. States such as Florida are killing voter-registration drives, and some states are erecting strict documentation barriers that some Americans simply cannot meet.
Lillie Lewis of St. Louis is one of these Americans. Lillie was born in Mississippi almost 80 years ago, but the building that held all existing records of her birth burned down years ago. Lillie has cast a vote in almost every election, but the proposed state law to require photo ID would have kept Lillie off the rolls.
Missouri’s voter ID law was ultimately struck down as unconstitutional, but citizens in other states haven’t been so fortunate.
Twelve elderly nuns in Indiana — one of them 98 years old — were turned away from the state primaries this May due to voter ID requirements. This abuse of democracy is being echoed by other states that are trying to impose similar laws in time for the November elections. 
These stringent voter ID requirements make participating in our democracy increasingly difficult for the poor, disabled, elderly and minority communities — populations that not only share similar concerns about jobs, health care and education, but who already have been disproportionately cut off from the ballot box.
And for what purpose? If you consider that this theory of protecting our democracy against widespread voter fraud is little more than a myth, it becomes clear that these unfortunate ID laws are a solution in search of a much greater problem.
The Department of Justice conducted an intensive investigation on voter fraud that identified only 24 cases of voter impersonation between 2002 and 2005. 
These laws will not prevent fraud: what they will do is disenfranchise these groups and the estimated 7 percent of Americans who lack the required documents.
Theresa Castro is an organizer for Acorn in Phoenix

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