The American Library Association (ALA) jumped into the politically-charged debate over voter-identification laws this past weekend, adopting a resolution at its annual conference in opposition to Voter ID and other laws that critics view as voter suppression.
The resolution, originally proposed earlier this year by one of ALA's
roughly 60,000 members, reads in part: "Voter ID laws, restrictions on
voter registration, purging of voter rolls, and cuts to early voting are
the latest tactics for suppression of voting by historically
disenfranchised groups," including racial minorities, the elderly and
disabled, and students.
The organization's 180-member elected Council passed the resolution with little dissent following an open debate, according to Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA's Washington office, who said that fewer than 10 Council members voted against it.
Libraries and librarians have been active in voter registration for years, especially since the advent of online registration. "We're very committed to democracy -- to making sure that citizens in this country are prepared to do their civic duty," Sheketoff says. "Anything that appears to suppress voter participation gets our attention."
The ALA resolution also compares recent actions and laws -- almost all proposed by Republicans -- to poll taxes and literacy tests. That may well raise charges of partisanship, and make this the most controversial ALA resolution since the group came out against anti-privacy provisions of the PATRIOT Act.
"This is an issue that may be playing out in some states in a partisan fashion," Sheketoff says, "but we feel strongly that this is small-d democratic."
With the annual conference just concluded in Anaheim, ALA has not yet
issued a public release about the resolution, or posted the full version as adopted on its web site.