British late night TV show host John Oliver took on voter ID laws in the US in the latest episode of Last Week Tonight. Oliver, who often takes on controversial issues, noted that new laws in several states will make it difficult for thousands of everyday Americans to cast their ballots in the upcoming November elections.
"We are finally in an election year. So, for our main story tonight let's look at voting, the cornerstone of American democracy. The unshakable principle that everyone should have an equal vote, even idiots," Oliver said in his opening monologue.
The HBO show host noted that in recent years, several states have made it easier to vote. Washington, Oregon and Colorado now hold their elections almost entirely by mail, Oliver said, adding that 30 states and the District of Columbia now allow voters to register online.
"Sadly, others have gone in the opposite direction," he continued. "Because depending on who you are and where you live you may face new obstacles to voting this November, thanks to, among other things, the Supreme Court's decision to weaken the Voting Rights Act." Oliver went on to describe the seven states that have "curtailed early voting" and the 13 states that have added voter ID laws requiring voters to show identification when they head to the polls.
"The lawmakers pushing those voter ID laws claim they are just simple common-sense measures," he said. Following several clips of lawmakers attempting to convince the media that the new laws would not significantly affect people, Oliver interrupted with a quip on how significant depends on who you're speaking with.
Oliver argued that not everyone has ID and he quoted The Texas Tribune, which reported "more than 500,000 of the state's registered voters did not have the credentials needed to cast ballots," as evidence. North Carolina and Wisconsin face similar issues, with 300,000 voters in each state not owning a driving license or state ID.
He continued that those who do not have an ID may also experience a difficult time obtaining one. Oliver spoke of 68-year-old Doris Clark from Pennsylvania, who was turned away three times when she tried to get a voter ID card. She was reportedly told she needed to submit her original birth certificate, then her original Social Security card and finally her husband's death certificate to prove her married name. In other cases, the offices giving voter IDs are rarely open.
"Voting is a right," Oliver said. "If you take it away, you ruin democracy."
Oliver also noted that these laws have been shown to disproportionately affect black and Latino voters. "It's just one of those things that white people seem to be more likely to have," he said. "Like a sunburn, or an Oscar nomination."