Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Saturday, October 1, 2016

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Voter ID Laws

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Voter ID Laws

by Suevon Lee, ProPublica.

 

July 24: This post has been updated and corrected.

Voter IDs laws have become a political flashpoint in what’s gearing up to be another close election year. Supporters say the laws — which 30 states have now enacted in some form — are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as a tactic to disenfranchise voters.

We’ve taken a step back to look at the facts behind the laws and break down the issues at the heart of the debate.

So what are these laws?

They are measures intended to ensure that a registered voter is who he says he is and not an impersonator trying to cast a ballot in someone else’s name. The laws, most of which have been passed in the last several years, require that registered voters show ID before they’re allowed to vote. Exactly what they need to show varies. Some states require a government-issued photo, while in others a current utility bill or bank statement is sufficient.

As a registered voter, I thought I always had to supply some form of ID during an election.

Not quite. Per federal law, first-time voters who registered by mail must present a photo ID or copy of a current bill or bank statement. Some states generally advise voters bring some form of photo ID. But prior to the 2006 election, no state ever required a voter to produce a government-issued photo ID as a condition to voting. Indiana in 2006 became the first state to enact a strict photo ID law, a law that was upheld two years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Why are these voter ID laws so strongly opposed?

Voting law advocates contend these laws disproportionately affect elderly, minority and low-income groups that tend to vote Democratic. Obtaining photo ID can be costly and burdensome, with even free state ID requiring documents like a birth certificate that can cost up to $25 in some places. According to a study from NYU’s Brennan Center, 11 percent of voting-age citizens lack necessary photo ID while many people in rural areas have trouble accessing ID offices. During closing arguments in a recent case over Texas’s voter ID law, a lawyer for the state brushed aside these obstacles as the “reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.”

Attorney General Eric Holder and others have compared the laws to a poll tax, in which Southern states during the Jim Crow era imposed voting fees, which discouraged the working class and poor, many of whom were minorities, from voting.

Given the sometimes costly steps required to obtain needed documents today, legal scholars argue that photo ID laws create a new “financial barrier to the ballot box.”

Just how well-founded are fears of voter fraud?

There have been only a small number of fraud cases resulting in a conviction. A New York Times analysis from 2007 identified 120 cases filed by the Justice Department over five years. These cases, many of which stemmed from mistakenly filled registration forms or misunderstanding over voter eligibility, resulted in 86 convictions.

There are “very few documented cases,” said UC-Irvine professor and election law specialist Rick Hasen. “When you do see election fraud, it invariably involves election officials taking steps to change election results or it involves absentee ballots which voter ID laws can’t prevent,” he said.

One of the most vocal supporters of strict voter ID laws, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that his office has prosecuted about 50 cases of voter fraud in recent years. “I know for a fact that voter fraud is real, that it must be stopped, and that voter id is one way to prevent cheating at the ballot box and ensure integrity in the electoral system,” he told the paper. Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to ProPublica’s request for comment.

  • montanabill

    Any guesses as to why so few voter fraud cases have been discovered yet there have been cases where more voters voted than existed in the precinct? Another question. Why are voter signs in more languages than English if you must know English to be a naturalized (legal) citizen?

    • ObozoMustGo

      montana….. questions? did you ask questions? Clearly, you are out of bounds here.

      hehehehehehe

      Have a great day!

  • oldfyredog

    The author should explore the relationship between ALEC, a Koch brothers, Bill Gates and other big corporation funded conservative organization and these Republican legislators in this attempt to institutionalize voter discrimination. ALEC supplied the model language behind many of these bills.

    • ObozoMustGo

      uhhh… dog….. Gates is a leftist. Well known.

      Have a nice day!

      PS> Corporations are people too!

  • ObozoMustGo

    A person must show an ID in every other area of their life. Voting should be no different. If the law applies equally to all, there is no disenfranchisement.

    Doesn’t allowing voter fraud disenfranchise a legal citizen’s vote? Of course it does. There can be no effort spared to ensure the integrity and sanctity of our elections.

    Have a nice day!

    PS> Corporations are people too

  • The US Consitution says that no American must have an ID. In the sixties, some firms tried to mandate the Social Security number, but that was thrown out. The rule was changed from mandatory to, “Service, MAY be denied if no SSN is provided. An ID could be provided, given at birth and refelcted on our Birth Certificate. BUT, that would violate the US Consitution.
    As for voting IDs, why not mandate that each state provide all residents, of voting age, a STATE given, indivual VOTER ID number, at last 6 months before the voting date. Also, mandate that anyone trying to use anothers ID, or falsfying an ID in any way, will go to jail for not less than 10 YEARS, NO EXCEPTIONS!