When you hear these specious claims, keep the facts in mind:
- There is no evidence of the type of fraud that would be prevented with stricter voter ID. Election results are threatened by organized schemes to subvert them, not random cases of one voter impersonating another.
- If the goal is to protect against chance irregularities, less restrictive requirements used by some states would suffice. These allow voters to establish identity with voter registration cards, medical cards, bank cards, recent utility bills, or pay stubs.
- Requiring strict, government-issued photo ID, presents a hardship for hundreds of thousands of voters.
It can take several trips to gather this documentation, making it hard for working class voters to get the time off work. It may be hard for rural or low-income voters to arrange transportation. Elderly, sick, and disabled voters may have difficulty. Proponents will point out that the new laws have provisions to make these IDs easier to obtain, but this is coming from the same people who seem to have no sense of what kind of hardship these laws impose.
It can be done. And make no mistake, if these laws survive legal challenges, caring citizens will mobilize in response and help those who don’t have them get the forms of ID they need. But they shouldn’t have to. These laws affect people who in some cases have been dedicated voters for many years, and have always known that to cast their ballot they just had to get themselves to the polls on Election Day. Some of them know their precinct workers on sight. Some of them remember when people took their lives in their hands to try and vote, and now we are saying to them, you have to get some documentation before you come in here and try to vote. They have been described by some as not wanting to go to the trouble to obtain the proper ID.
Here is where things stand now:
20 states* and DC currently require no ID to vote. Voters provide their name and address and are given a ballot.
16 states* allow these forms of ID: voter registration card, utility bill, student ID, work badge, Social Security card, pay stub, medical card, public assistance card, birth certificate, tribal ID, military ID, driver's license or state ID card.
(That's 36 states that require either easily accessible forms of ID, or none. Where are the cases of elections skewed by individuals impersonating other voters? When have impersonators used utility bills to fool poll workers, and would have been thwarted if only they’d had to present a photo ID?)
7 states * require a photo ID, but will accept the following alternatives to government issued forms: debit or credit card with photo, retirement center photo ID, student ID, public assistance photo ID, neighborhood association ID, out-of-state driver's license, and in some states, any photo ID, such as a gym membership card, or a discount warehouse card.
(Where are the cases in which poll workers were fooled by picture IDs that weren’t state-issued?)
7 states* have laws that are in effect now or will be soon that are the most restrictive. The only acceptable form of ID in these states are a driver’s license, state identification card, passport, or military ID, forms that can only be obtained by jumping through the hoops outlined above.
Justifying a new law is the responsibility of its proponents. Do not let them tell you it is the responsibility of the law's opponents to prove them unnecessary and problematic. It is against federal law to impose procedures that have the result - even if not the intent - of disenfranchising numbers of voters. Their argument for the existence of these laws must be made to the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, don't be snowed. Remember the facts when you hear the claims.
7 states and counting. It’s the hottest new fad in conservative sleight of hand, coming soon to a state near you. These politicians should run on the merits of their positions rather than making up problems that trade on fear.
*National Conference of State Legislature