Voter ID Confusion
by The Milton Measure on Friday, October 5th, 2012
According to political pundits and talking heads, voter fraud is a common problem in the United States. The government places a large amount of trust in its voter registration, a system which seems to expose itself to the possibility of abuse. However, citizens place an equal, if not greater, trust in their government. A democracy expects the federal administration to isolate itself from manipulating the votes. Certain laws, though, attempt to indirectly exclude minorities and different socioeconomic classes from voting. Attempting to end voter fraud once and for all, Republicans are currently trying to pass voter identification laws, which state that every voter must present a government-issued photo identification card. Young people and minorities, two groups that skew Democratic, are also less likely to have photo ID. This attempt to prevent “voter fraud,” an almost nonexistent problem, constitutes an attempt to disenfranchise a wide swath of the population.
To avoid the disaster of the post-Reconstruction era “poll tax,” which discouraged many Southern blacks and poor whites from voting, the Democratic Party is trying to block these laws from passing. Considering those who might be disqualified for reason of “lack of identification” tend to have liberal views, the Democratic Party is also fighting to protect itself from an electoral disaster in crucial swing states. While preventing fraud is a valid idea, a balanced approach is necessary to avoid the dual pitfalls of disenfranchisement and falsified ballots.
Scott Gessler, Colorado’s Secretary of State, says that there are “real vulnerabilities in the system,” and argued that thousands of non-registered citizens voted in a recent election. However, according to the Washington Post, his earlier estimate of 11,805 non-citizens voting has shrunk to 141. Of those 141 non-citizens, only 35 have ever actually placed their voting ballots into the machines. Furthermore, minorities, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor are those most likely to be affected unjustly by this law. In those communities, not owning a government-issued ID is fairly common, as passports and drivers’ licenses are expensive and not always necessary. If confronted, a voter should, and can, prove his residency and citizenship; however, he doesn’t need a government ID for that.
Preventing non-citizens and unregistered residents from voting is important, but the idea has simply not been given due consideration. More thought and debate from both sides is needed to find an appropriate compromise. For now, though, the law has too many flaws and risks one of the country’s most important values: the freedom to vote. Voting is an essential democratic right that should not be dependent on a 2 by 4 inch piece of plastic.
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