Voter identification is an issue that seems to come up every two years, sees little change and then disappears until the next major election cycle. This extremely partisan issue takes root in the inconsistent, to say the least, voting laws throughout the country.
Recently, three states, Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky, tried to pass laws requiring would-be-voters to bring proof of citizenship in order to cast a ballot. All three of these proposed laws were struck down by a U.S. Court of Appeals, claiming they had been shown by the League of Women that there would be “irreparable harm if the rule was permitted” according to coverage from Reuters. But what would be the harm in making photo identification a necessity in order to vote?
Different laws in different states require different things on election day. Assuming a person is already registered, in order to cast a ballot, some states require a photo identification while others require as little as a piece of mail with a name and address on it. One state actually only needs a signature and an oath if a photo identification cannot be provided. Some politicians, Republicans in particular, believe the rules do not do an adequate job in preventing fraudulent voting like they are supposed to.
It is not surprising that Republicans are suspicious. In fact, during the 2012 presidential elections, President Barack Obama won the non-white vote 82 to 18 over Governor Mitt Romney. The disparity is so great that some believe there is fraudulent voting occurring. Confirmed cases of voter fraud are extremely rare, yet are also extremely hard to prove.
But as often is the case, Democrats do not feel the same. They claim that requiring photo identification would make minority communities and America’s poorest citizens not able to participate in elections. Democrats paint a picture of the ‘Modern American’ as someone who cannot make enough money to pay for a driver’s license or has no need for one. Voting is supposed to be a right of all citizens and by that nature, it is supposed to be accessible to everyone.
The notion that masses of Americans cannot produce a photo identification seems absurd. We live in a country that requires you to flash your hard earned license to buy cigarettes, lottery tickets, M-rated games, R-rated movies, alcohol and bar entry. Do all these establishments discriminate against the poor as well? With the Bipartisan Policy Center reporting only 57.5 percent voter turnout during the 2012 elections, it is hard to believe that the same people who do not have any form of photo identification also make voting high on their priority list (http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/2012-voter-turnout/).
What really should be the goal of politicians is to increase voter turnout. The right to vote is what makes America, America. For the first time ever, a government by the people for the people has been established, but that only works if the people vote. The entire election process needs to be reworked. Many Americans believe their vote does not count, and in some circumstances this is proven true. In many ways, the electoral college system is extremely unfair. Will California ever vote Republican? Statistically, no. So does a right leaning Californian’s vote matter? Well that is up for debate; but many do not believe it does.
The same argument can be used when discussing voter security. An honest person is a lot less likely to vote in an election they think will be fudged by fraudulent activity. By securing the integrity of the vote while reworking the system, more people will decide to vote.
While forcing people to purchase photo identification may not be the best decision, not doing anything is far worse. The government should supply free voter identification cards, free to replace and free to renew, to every registered voter. Before voting, all one needs to do is show their card. This would make fraudulent voting almost a thing of the past while also not discriminatory against the poor. Do not get your hopes up yet, the government rarely gives out anything for free.
David Csordas is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.