In the past week, we've all been bombarded by a plethora of articles that list many of the various ways the government shutdown might affect our lives.

One of the effects that strikes me as quite problematic is the hiatus of the pursuit of justice and equity.

The Department of Justice has delayed a number of its activities, as many lawyers were furloughed due to the shutdown. However, now that the Pentagon has ordered most civilian government employees off of furlough, perhaps business will soon proceed as usual.

Before the shutdown, the DOJ had been in the process of suing the states of North Carolina and Texas. They have passed voter ID laws that are seen as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

This is in the wake of the Supreme Court's repeal of a key portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed to eliminate the disenfranchisement that many minorities and poor people faced at the voting polls in the Jim Crow era.

Even after the 15th Amendment, which granted suffrage regardless of "race, color or previous condition of servitude," there were ways in which individual states would prevent or discourage minorities from voting.

Tactics included literacy tests, poll taxes and varying methods of intimidation.

The Voting Rights Act prohibited these practices. It also stipulated that certain states and counties have any new voting-related laws reviewed before being passed.

The two states in question – Texas and North Carolina – have, since the repeal, passed laws that include strict identification requirements for voters.

It bears mentioning that these two states are not the only ones with such laws – over 30 states have at the very least considered voter ID laws.

Ostensibly, these laws, which are supported largely by Republicans, are to prevent voter fraud.

However, many beg to differ: "There is no evidence of significant in-person impersonation fraud, the type ID laws can prevent," reads an article titled "Justice Department Poised to File Lawsuit Over Voter ID Law" by The New York Times on Sept. 30. "Democrats say the restrictions are intended to discourage groups that tend to support Democrats, like students, poor people and minorities."

It is true that these laws place an unfair burden on minorities, students and the poor, groups who are more likely to vote Democrat.

One might argue that requiring an ID isn't much to ask – "Doesn't everyone have an ID?" – but that person would be ignoring the realities of life faced by many impoverished Americans.

Of course, if either the federal or state governments issued free and easily-attainable IDs, then the requirement would not be an unreasonable one.

However, that is not the case: in order to obtain a valid ID – and, by the way, in many cases, student IDs, public employee IDs or photo IDs issued by public-assistance agencies are not eligible; a person must go to a local DMV, which may or may not be in an accessible location, or even open more than once monthly, and pay a fee.

It is telling that almost immediately after that key part of the Voting Rights Act was stricken, states that had previously been affected started moving to pass stricter voting laws. If the prevention of fraud was the sole, noble motivation, why wait until after the repeal to push this legislation? Surely, it wouldn't have violated the act as discriminatory.

Personally, I don't identify as either a Democrat or Republican, but I do recognize these restrictive laws as a classic form of Republican voter suppression, à la Paul Weyrich in 1980: "I don't want everyone to vote."

What sort of country is this, where the disenfranchisement of potential voters is actively pursued?

Andrea Richardson is a sophomore in anthropology. She can be reached at aricha42@utk.edu.