Politics

Requiring Photo ID Will Protect Election Integrity, Not Disenfranchise Voters

| by Nik Bonopartis
Voting Booth.Voting Booth.

People who oppose ID requirements for voting like to point out that straight-up cases of voter impersonation are rare.

That's true.

But voting fraud isn't rare, and voting is the heart of a functioning democracy. Voting is our "sacred right," as politicians like to say.

So why do some politicians and activists act as if protecting the integrity of the vote is some affront to democracy or effort to disenfranchise the poor and minorities?

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The truth is, voter fraud is common, and there's no end to the ingenuity of people determined to win elections by fraudulent means. From forging absentee ballots, to lying about residency, to forging signatures, to outright paying people to vote for a candidate, the headlines and convictions prove voter fraud is widespread, and those are only the cases we know about from the people who got caught.

The Republican National Lawyers Association, which tracks voter fraud cases that make the headlines, cataloged 30 fraud cases in 2014 alone that resulted in convictions. Among them: Campaign managers who tampered with same-day election registration, a Connecticut state senator who routinely voted in districts she didn't live in, and a community organizer who was convicted of rigging a mayoral election.

To hear those who oppose IDs tell it, voter ID laws are designed by malicious Republicans in back rooms, cackling as they take entire Democrat-leaning neighborhoods and cities out of play. According to the same people, poor and minority voters will be turned away by the hundreds or thousands as they try to vote, resulting in mass disenfranchisement.

That's a fantasy, or more appropriately, a boogeyman. Out of 36 states that have passed some form of voter ID law, there have been no instances of people turned away from the voting booth en masse. Sixteen of those states request IDs, but don't require them if voters can prove their identity by other means. Another 17 states don't require any form of identification.

In North Carolina, where officials are readying for the first year ballots are cast under a new voter-protection law, people without IDs can still vote if they can prove their identity by other means. They don't need driver's licenses to prove their identity -- they can vote with state-issued ID cards, military IDs or passports. Most states offer free help to voters who don't have photo IDs. All they have to do is reach out ahead of time.

"It's a policy question," said Thomas Farr, an attorney representing the state. "The evidence here does not rise anywhere close to showing a discriminatory intent."

Sources: Reuters, National Conference of State Legislatures, VoteTexas.gov, Republican National Lawyers Association / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons