THE BLOG
05/31/2016 11:28 am ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

Voter ID Laws Put Latinos' Constitutional Rights and the Planet's Future in Peril

Less than eight years ago, the U.S. was the world's largest obstacle in the fight against climate change. Today, we are the world leader. And this astonishing turn of events is in large part due to Latino voters.

Both in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama´s overwhelming Latino support was crucial in his two election victories and the eventual implementation of its policies to counter the climate crisis.

For us Latinos, the consensus that climate change is real and that the federal government must intervene to fight it is practically unanimous, and even today, it's far higher than that of the population in general. This Latino support for environmental protections is demonstrated time and again at the polls.

This year, the Latino vote will prove crucial once again, and the presidential candidates know fully well that to prevail they must garner a substantial percentage of these votes.

On the Democratic side, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders consider fighting climate change as a top priority, and both have presented clear and decisive plans to expedite the transition to a clean energy economy.

Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, on the other hand, calls climate change "bullsh*t" and a "hoax" concocted by the Chinese to destroy the American economy. In a major speech, he outlined his terrifying dirty energy agenda, including the authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Obama correctly rejected last year. He has also called for the elimination of the EPA, repealing the Clean Power Plan and rejecting the Paris Climate Agreement. With him in the White House, it would be game over for the climate.

If we add the fact that Trump calls immigrants "rapists" dedicated to drug trafficking and other criminal activities, it's no wonder among us his popularity is abysmal. So how then can he get the necessary Latino support? He and his party have an alternative: suppressing our votes.

Thirty-three states already have voter ID laws that restrict our constitutional right to vote, and practically all of them are controlled by Republican legislatures. These laws are specifically designed to suppress the vote of Latinos, African-Americans, the young and the elderly. In Texas, for instance, for the members of these typically low-income communities, getting the required documentation to vote is so hard, many are forced to hire lawyers to chase the paperwork. Many more give up and stop trying.

These laws are a solution in desperate search for a problem that doesn't exist. According to studies, a voter is more likely to be struck by lighting than to commit election fraud, among many other reasons because the risks of being caught far exceed the potential gains of such fraud.

Voter suppression, however, is a very effective tactic. According to a General Accountability Office study, voter ID laws can reduce voter participation by up to 3 percent, especially among members of communities of color. In heavily Latino South Florida, tens of thousands had to wait up to nine hours to cast their ballots in 2012, after the Republican governor drastically restricted the availability of voting places and times.

Yet there is a lot you can do to be ready to vote. The Ya Es Hora ¡Ve y Vota! (it's time, get out and vote) Campaign, organized by NALEO, NCLR, Univision and ImpreMedia, among others, provides a free bilingual information service (888-839-8682) about all aspects of the voting process. These include registering to vote, voter ID requirements and finding your polling place on Election Day. In any instance, to avoid difficulties, vote early, by mail or the weekend before Election Day whenever possible.

For us Latinos, these obstacles constitute a no-confidence vote that puts our constitutional right in peril. But you are still in time to get ready to use your power and vote for your family's future on November 8.

Paid for by Sierra Club Independent Action, www.sierraclub.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.