Voting is the fundamental cornerstone of democracy, and is a right that is so important, we have amended the U.S. Constitution five times to protect and expand that right. Despite such protections, the fear of voter fraud has led states to enact voter ID requirements, but they are proving to do more harm than good.
“A total of 36 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls,” according to the “Voter Identification Requirements-Voter ID Laws” page of the National Conference of State Legislatures website.
Voter ID laws have become a growing trend lately, with more states adopting or moving to enact the requirement. As with most governmental regulations, however, there are some who agree and others who disagree.
Supporters see the voter ID requirements “as a way to prevent in-person voter impersonation and increase public confidence in the election process.” On the other hand, opponents say ID requirements “restricts the right to vote and imposes unnecessary costs and administrative burdens on elections administrators,” according to the NCSL.
The government has basically put up a barrier to stop a crime whose occurrence is described as infinitesimal, which has left about a million people without the right to vote.
A million is a pretty big number, so where did it come from?
According to Ross Ramsey in The Texas Tribune article, “Analysis: a missing piece in the voter ID debate,” more than 500,000 of the state’s registered voters did not have the necessary credentials to cast ballots.
The number of people who do not have the credentials to vote in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia totals to approximately 1.3 million, according to a segment on “Tonight with John Oliver.”
Ninety thousand registered voters in Pennsylvania may not have had the required documentation to vote, Amy Bingham said in her ABC News article “Pa. voter ID law leads to DMV trips from ‘hell.'”
There could be many reasons why someone may not have a form of ID. One being when the elderly have their driver’s licenses taken away. Another example could possibly be those who cannot afford a car, therefore having no reason to have a license.
So how prevalent is voter fraud that we need a photo ID requirement?
There have only been 31 confirmed incidents of voter impersonation, according to Justin Levitt in his Washington Post article “A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast.”
Although this number seems high, there are many out there who seem to think that voter fraud is being made a bigger deal than it actually is.
Texas has convicted 51 people of voter fraud going back 10 years, only four of those cases were for voter impersonation, the only type of voter fraud that voter ID laws prevent, according to Amy Bingham in her ABC News article “Voter fraud: non-existent problem or election-threatening epidemic.”
In the same piece, Pennsylvania State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe said that the push behind enacting these laws is fraud prevention and common sense.
One cannot dress this issue up as a common sense reform because it isn’t. Voting ID requirements prevent one of the rarest crimes we have in America at the expense of many more. In my opinion, our government shouldn’t be finding ways to decide who gets to vote for or against them. We need to be finding a way to make it easier for people to even vote at all, and the voting ID requirements are just one giant step backward.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 2:09 p.m. March 23, 2016 to correct the number of people who do not have the credentials to vote in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Virginia.