Voter ID is a bad idea

On Tuesday, October 21, the Supreme Court upheld the previously struck down Texan voter identification law. The 2011 law requires people voting to present photo identification in order to vote with varying types of identification like gun licenses, military Identification, or passports being acceptable. To date, thirty-one states require some form of identification, several require photo ID’s; and all taking place in Republican dominated legislatures. The rise of voter ID bills harkens back several years to rising fears about voting fraud. The Supreme Court ruling will likely reignite the public conversation about voting requirements.

Rhetorically, the policy seems fair and innocuous. Beyond that point, voter ID bills are entirely pointless.

For one, it is hard for objective viewers to look past the partisan slant. Comments from Republicans like Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader Mike Tuzai saying that: “Voter ID….is going to allow Governor Romeny to win…”; or recently New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asking: “Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist.” Most of the people who would have difficulties overcoming the barriers to vote are minorities and low income voters, a series of demographics that tend to vote Democratic.  Suffice to say, I remain skeptical on the true intent of conservative legislation.

Second,  voter fraud is real but is substantially more myth than reality. Look at the standing research on voter fraud. In 2007 the Bush administration researched voter fraud for five years and: “turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal election.”  In August Federal district Judge Lynn Adelman reviewed and declared that in Wisconsin elections: “The evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin.” Moreover, “….no evidence suggests that voter-impersonation fraud will become a problem at any time in the foreseeable future.” Additionally the New York University Law School researched the occurrence of voter fraud in Missouri, New Jersey, and Wisconsin since  2000. They found that the frequency of fraud was shockingly high: .0003 percent, .0004 percent, and .0002 percent respectively. Not surprisingly, comprehensive data on fraud shows that there were 2,068 cases of voter fraud since 2000. Decimals, not droves, is the true extent to which fraud occurs.

Lastly, voter ID will prevent more legitimate than fraudulent voting. In Texas alone, 600,000 low income voters and voters of color are estimated to be disenfranchised. This applies especially to low income voters: though many proponents of the bills argue that getting photo ID’s is free, the actual cost is between $30 and $150, and possibly up to $1500, according to Richard Sobel of Harvard’s Institute for Race and Justice. The cost arises because people need expensive documents to get their ID. This cost creates a significant barrier for low income voters and voter ID laws actually decreased voter turnout in Kansas and Tennessee by 1.9 percent and 2.2 percent respectively (that’s 122,000 fewer votes).

If you look at the issue objectively, voter ID is a terrible idea.  Beyond the clear partisan slant, voter ID bills are like spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to save at most a dollar. In perspective, voter ID bars millions of Americans from voting because of misplaced fears and decimal points.


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