It appears that once again, the ignorance and unfounded prejudice that has for so long characterized conservative opposition to the socioeconomic advancement of the poor has reared its ugly head — this time, in the form of opposition to the Motor Voter Act recently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The law, designed to simplify the process of voter registration, gives any California citizen obtaining a driver’s license the ability to opt into the voting process — a much-needed move to expedite voter registration. Before the bill’s introduction, most affluent citizens could find the leisure time to register through more onerous processes. However, the working class — largely comprised of those who work 10-12 hour days through multiple shifts, positions and locations — found themselves unable to either find the time to register or find transportation to a site that could facilitate it. The Motor Voter Act resolves the problem created by these socioeconomic barriers, reaffirming California’s commitment to political equality and combatting a very serious and real threat to the sanctity and validity of the American democratic process.
However, since California also has been one of the only states to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented workers, conservative opposition has suggested that these laws are somehow part of a larger political conspiracy to allow undocumented workers to vote and thus bolster the Democratic party. Though obviously outlandish, this assertion also fails to recognize the realities associated with the process of voter registration through the Motor Voter Act — and the lives of undocumented workers in the state of California.
First, the secretary of state’s office must verify the eligibility of all voters. The overwhelming majority of undocumented workers do not have birth certificates, social security cards or any type of insurance or state-sponsored identification. Additionally, they do not appear in any government records and — most importantly — do not actually lead lives that would afford them the opportunity to obtain one of these documents, much less several in tandem. Therefore, the idea that the secretary of state’s office could fail to invalidate an attempt to vote by one of these persons is absolutely ridiculous.
Second, the argument that the Motor Voter Act would open the voting process to undocumented workers makes several key assumptions that are truly heinous when held to the light. First, it assumes that undocumented workers would even seek to participate in the voting process. The majority of undocumented workers in California do not own televisions. They do not sit around on laptops and mull through the news. They do not receive public education in civics and American politics. Moreover, many are largely illiterate, and others are only proficient in written Spanish — not written English. It is extremely difficult for an undocumented worker to be able to first discern how and when to vote, much less consider the pros and cons of the varying political candidates within our highly complex partisan structure without widespread educational materials and easy media access. More importantly, it is unfathomable why the conservative opposition would possibly think that an undocumented worker would enter a location rife with police and government personnel and sacrifice a workday’s pay in the process.
Third, the argument implies that the currently disenfranchised group of working class voters who will be serviced by this bill should not be enfranchised because they vote liberally; even if 100 percent of these undocumented voters voted for the Democratic party, that still does not give conservatives the right to assert that they should not be granted access to participation in their own political system.
Moreover, the argument that the definition of a citizen will somehow be impacted by the ability of undocumented workers to vote — the unlikelihood of which having been addressed above — is equally asinine. The definition of the citizen has never hinged on the ability to vote. Women were not eligible to vote until 1920, but they were citizens for the 144 years prior. Perhaps conservatives would have recommended that we deport them all. The definition of a citizen is not what bothers these opponents of the bill — rather, it is the fear that their party’s alienation of the poor and people of color will finally come to fruition in the unwillingness of newly enfranchised working class citizens to support their party. It is the fear that they will defeat the Republican policies which for so long have hindered by their ability to seek socioeconomic advancement and political equality in favor of the white elite.
The Motor Voter Act will increase voter turnout in a system attempting to expand enfranchisement to oppressed and underprivileged groups, standing as perhaps one of the only worthwhile pieces of legislation aiming to benefit California’s working class. In truth, undocumented workers have nothing to do with the opposition. Rather, these are the last cries of the elephant as its party finally lays down to die.