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Suspended Driver's Licenses Punish Poor And Minority Voters

Republican voter suppression has another way to stop poor and minorities from voting.
Suspended Driver's Licenses Punish Poor And Minority Voters
Image from: L.A. Times

Her's another convenient way to skirt the Voting Rights Act of 1965: force voters to present the very same photo ID that they are less likely to possess. Citizens who are from disproportionately poor and minority areas are far more likely to have suspended driver's licenses, and it's not because they have committed crimes. People lose their licenses when they simply cannot afford the draconian fines levied by municipal courts for myriad reasons.

For example, if you get a speeding ticket, you generally have the option to go to a driver's ed class. However, that class is not free, and poorer drivers cannot afford the costs, so they are punished even more harshly. The consequences have a snowball effect, no license, no way to get to work, no way to earn money, more poverty.

If you also consider that people who are 'driving while Black' are punished at much higher rates, it's absolutely a problem for the poorer individual, and Republicans know that poor people vote Democrat.

The findings of the study are unmistakable.

Racial minorities and lower-income Americans are often more likely to have their driver's licenses taken away, according to a new report from a civil legal aid group.

Motorists can have their driver’s licenses suspended for a variety of reasons, many of which are unrelated to any traffic violations. In most states, for example, licenses can be suspended for failure to pay child support. Some jurisdictions may take away licenses from drivers who fail to attend school, or even drivers who fail to keep up with their student loan payments.

But some of the most common suspensions result from failing to pay fines or appear in court. And it's those suspensions that led to stark disparities among racial minorities and poorer groups across California, according to the new study by the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. The report makes the case that driver’s licenses are too frequently suspended for reasons unrelated to protecting public safety, often imposing detrimental consequences on those living in poverty.


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As a result of lowering taxes levied on those who are wealthier, cities try to recoup that money in other ways, mainly by harsh fines. Failure to pay or failure to appear charges compound and become insurmountable, and some states recognize that.

The Missouri Department of Revenue reinstated all licenses that had been suspended strictly for failing to pay fines or appear in court. And last month, the Massachusetts legislature repealed a law mandating automatic license suspensions for convicted drug offenders.

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown has initiated a statewide ticket amnesty program allowing some drivers to obtain reductions in traffic tickets and civil fees owed. The legal group’s report called for expansion of the program to make it more accessible to poorer individuals. Last fall, in an effort to curb racial profiling, the state also passed a law requiring law enforcement agencies to collect and report data on traffic and pedestrian stops.

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