Media strategist speaks on voter ID laws

Don Ringe, an Emmy award winning media strategist, will deliver a lecture on voter identification laws this evening at 4 p.m. in Payson Library. His presentation will examine voter ID laws and their potential impact on the 2012 presidential election.

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The debate between Republicans and Democrats over the law requiring voters to show a photo ID has received national attention. The Democratic Party has vehemently opposed the law, which was written by state Republicans. While Republicans claim the law is needed to prevent voter fraud, Democrats claim the measure is “discriminatory.” Since 2008, 31 states have passed voter ID measures. Requirements and acceptable forms of ID vary from state to state. In order to vote in a state or federal election, citizens of these states are required to present state-sanctioned photo identification.

Ringe, who opposes the voter ID laws, has worked as a political media consultant for nearly 45 years. Included on his list of clients are Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole. Up until 2007, Ringe worked exclusively for Republican candidates. He left the party in 2008 to vote for Barack Obama. “It’s a Lee Atwater approach to governing. It’s unfair. And, I think that most people regardless of their registration party will see it that way,” Ringe said.

Shane Tayloe, a senior and political science major in the Honors Program at Pepperdine, supports the voter ID laws. Tayloe is a member of the Pepperdine College Republicans and a staff member at both Tony Strickland for Congress and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Frankly, it’s puzzling to me why requiring voters to prove that they are who they say they are is a contentious issue. Currently citizens are required by law to show ID when they fly, enter a courthouse, get pulled over or try to gain access to a federal building,” Tayloe said. He argues that the ultimate manifestation of the term “back door amnesty” is “in the current system that cedes the most fundamental right of U.S. citizens [voting] to anyone who stumbles into a polling station.”

In the last 11 months, the “major civil rights” issues surrounding voter ID laws have come to the forefront of politics. Ringe agrees that there needs to be some form of national voter ID; however, he believes that the laws currently in place are too extreme. “The key issue here is getting everybody what they want and need which is universal national registration photo ID that allows everyone to have a real right to vote,” Ringe said.

Some see the effort to create highly restrictive voter ID laws as a discriminatory tactic. The new laws could potentially disenfranchise around 11 percent of American voters. Students, minorities, the poor and elderly may not have the funds or access to apply for state-sanctioned voter IDs. Critics say the laws discourages the marginalized from voting.

Ringe is currently the media consultant to VoteRiders, a non-partisan, non-profit organization who has made it their goal “to ensure that all citizens are able to exercise their right to vote.”

Katheen Unger, the founder of VoteRiders, will also be speaking at the lecture. Unger urges students to take action and sign the pledge on the VoteRider’s website. By signing the pledge, students can help others “exercise their right to vote.” According to Unger, students can reach out to friends or family in one of the affected states and form a support group to ensure that the individual obtains proper identification. Students can also submit compelling stories of citizens and their journey to obtain their voter IDs on the website.

On Oct. 2 in Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson temporarily halted the voter ID law for the Nov. 6 election. This means that voters will not be required to show identification in the upcoming election. However, a hearing was set for Dec.13 to discuss the case further.

Ringe will make a second appearance along with Daniel Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, at Payson Library on Oct. 18. The duo will analyze the presidential campaign in the media.