Voter ID: Reasonable Request vs. Discriminatory Law

By Jeffrey McKenzie
Pennsylvania and many other states have implemented or are attempting to implement voter ID laws. However, opponents are now complaining that such requests for identification are discriminatory, racist, or on par with a poll tax.
The overwhelming majority of potential voters have government-issued identification. Many of the simplest transactions involve an ID card, such as boarding an airplane. In addition, states that are passing these measures are creating ways for people without a driver’s license to obtain a free ID. Therefore, this legislation bears no resemblance to a poll tax, which is a flat fee charged to every voter.
Any interaction with government bureaucracy is a hassle, but getting an ID is no more demanding than registering to vote in the first place. Election officials have a right to ask that people prove their identity, place of residence, or citizenship in order to prevent those who are be ineligible from being able to vote. Further, the majority of people without identification are not registered to vote, and if they are, they are unlikely to turn out.
A main point of opposition is the claim there is virtually no cheating in elections. However, voter fraud would be impossible to measure because many unregistered voters could vote and not get caught. The controversy surrounding Florida’s counting of votes in the 2000 election suggests that even slight amounts of voter fraud are powerful enough to influence the outcome of an election.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett stated that a number of election precincts in Philadelphia that are reliably Democratic have produced results showing that more than 100 percent of registered voters cast ballots certain years in districts where turnout is low. It seems likely, even inevitable, that such examples of voter fraud are being repeated in cities across the country.
In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld an Indiana law requiring voter ID, with the majority opinion given by Justice John Paul Stevens: “Not only is the risk of voter fraud real but . . . it could affect the outcome of a close election.”
The honesty of the electoral process should not be made a partisan issue. States can do a better job promoting voter registration or the process by which non-drivers get an ID, but equating this measure with a poll tax or Jim Crow laws in false and disrespectful to civil rights. All citizens deserve the right to vote, and it is therefore constitutional that they be able to prove their citizenship with a government-issued ID.

By Joana Moreno
As of September 24, Voter ID laws are now effective throughout twenty-three states in America. These laws vary from state to state but have one general requirement: photo identification in order to cast a vote.

For most Americans this new requirement can be fulfilled by simply using a driver’s license or state identification card, yet it can be problematic for the population of Americans without a photo ID.

According to the Voting Rights Institute, 11% of Americans lack proper identification. Many Americans in that group are minorities and working poor, two groups known to traditionally vote Democratic. By making it almost impossible for them to vote in the upcoming elections, these laws discriminate against various highly democratic minority populations within the United States.

Voter ID laws do offer the option of a free election identification certificate, yet this option only pays lip service toward making the laws fair to all Americans. Obtaining an election certificate requires travelling to a Department of Public Safety and a certified copy of your birth certificate.

Both of these seem simple, but they may not be to those adversely affected by the law. Those in rural areas would have to travel an extensive number of miles to a D.P.S, and the working-poor would be forced to pay up to twenty-two dollars for a certified copy of their birth certificate.

Proponents of the law claim that these measures are not meant to discriminate, but instead secure the election process in order to prevent electoral fraud. To reinforce their claim they also mention that requiring a photo ID is reasonable because it is required to fly or participate in other trivial activities.

Despite these statements, government officials are not blind to this form of discrimination. Attorney General Eric Holder referred to voter ID laws as modern Jim Crow-era poll taxes. In August, a federal court turned down Texas’ version of a voter ID law, Senate Bill 14, stating that it would cause “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor.” This bill blatantly violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization, refers to these attempts as “voter suppression policies” and even predicts that the voter ID laws in place to date could prevent 10 million Latinos from voting. A current poll from CNN Politics reports that 68% of registered Latino voters would support Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in the upcoming election. Preventing those 10 million Latino voters would be a significant boon for the Republican Party.

Every type of voter identification laws that has been presented in federal court this year has been in some way modified in order to prevent discriminatory effects. Yet, these weakened voter ID laws remain a threat. Penda D. Hair, co-director of Advancement Project, worries that Pennsylvania voters may become confused because election workers may still ask for photo identification even though it is now not required in ordered to vote.

The very people promoting these discriminatory laws are those in elected positions who we have entrusted to speak on our behalf. Elections are approaching; it’s time to elect worthy representatives who are against discrimination and against voter ID laws.

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