Monday, August 27, 2012

What Liberals Say: Voter ID Laws Repress More Votes Than They Protect

One of the most controversial political issues of 2012 has been the institution of voter ID laws in 30+ states. These laws vary by state, but generally require that voters show government issued identification at their polling location in order to receive a ballot, some states went so far as requiring a birth certificate or proof of citizenship, and many others prevented early voting. The Department of Justice (headed by Obama's appointee, Eric Holder) have filed injunctions in many states to prevent these laws from implementation before November; their reasoning being that it will suppress voter turn out, as many people lack the proper identification to vote. Proponents of voter ID laws explain that these basic requirements will prevent voter fraud; after all, it becomes more challenging to falsely vote on behalf of someone else when you are required to forge a picture ID. At face value, it seems that these voter prerequisites would make a positive impact in November. They indiscriminately prevent fraud and, they protect American democracy. So why are Democrats to upset about these state issued demands? In short, it suppresses voter turn out, it discourages new voters, and it disproportionately effects minority and lower-income voters.

This seemingly intuitive approach to protect the integrity of American Democracy is actually a thinly veiled attempt to deter Democratic votes. I believe that the integrity of American democracy is found in high voter turn out, not in stringent qualifications excluding Americans from participation in November. I think that these voter protection laws are put in place to repress Democratic voters, and are merely purported as protective measures. The intuitive measures to protect voting, are preventing a problem that does not exist. In the past decade, there were between 13-83 individual voter fraud cases, cases that Republicans are going to great lengths to bring down to zero. To employ the common illustration, Republicans are killing a fly with a bazooka, and discouraging democratic (small d) participation in the process. 

This discouragement is unfortunate not only for the reason of voter disenfranchisement, but for the disparity among those disenfranchised. Of the over 20 million citizens without proper voter identification, 25% are black, 18% are between the ages of 18-24, another 18% are seniors, and 15% are making below 35K a year. Come November, these people wont be voting; not because they don't want to, but because they aren't able to. They did nothing wrong, and they never had an intention of committing voter fraud, but their right to vote is being stolen from them. These laws also are restricting potential voters, as the absence of early voting in many state will undoubtably decrease participation. In 2008, over 30% of votes were cast before election day. You don't need much political wisdom to predict lower participation rates in states without early voting. 

I am upset about these Republican voter laws because they are politically motivated and are discouraging voter participation. Voter protection is not a controversial issue, nor is it a problem. Once voter fraud begins to plague our electoral process, we should deal with it. Until that time, let's not use the red haring of voter fraud to disenfranchise voters. 

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