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ID laws shouldn’t stop voters from going to the polls

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 00:10

With one day left to register to vote in Florida, the question of voter legitimacy is still on the forefront of our nation’s political discourse. Talks of voter ID laws, purging voter rolls and scrutinizing voter registration practices lead to a grim reality in which we walk a thin line between advocating for voter legitimacy and disenfranchising voters.

While every ballot cast should be authentic, the push to enact strict laws that delegate how Americans can vote is unethical and unconstitutional.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, “Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud.”

This does not say that voter fraud never occurs. Rather, the extent to which it does is often inflated to gain an edge for a political party’s election agenda.

Requiring voters to provide a photo ID can only prevent one type of fraud: in-person impersonation fraud, where a person votes as someone who they are not.

According to briefs filed with the Supreme Court regarding the Indiana case Crawford v. Marion County Election Board of the more than 400 million votes since the 2000 elections, there were only 250 citations of voting problems. Of those 250 problems only 10 were impersonation-related, and nine were never proven.

This does not mean those 10 cases of voter fraud could still be prevented if photo IDs were required. Such a law only makes it harder for nearly 15 percent of the voting-age population who do not have a government-issued photo ID to prevent a crime that happens only a fraction of a percent of the time.

It does not make the scenario any better that the biggest supporters for voter ID laws are GOP officials, a party that historically benefits from low voter turnout.  
Those in favor of stricter election laws claim voter fraud is a real threat to democracy and needs to be eliminated by requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID. In Florida, unlike in some other states, an identification is required that includes both a photo and a signature. According to the Florida Division of Elections, this includes a driver’s license, passport, debit or credit card, military ID or student ID with signature — so USF ID cards don’t work, unless the voter can “provide an additional identification with your signature.”

While photo IDs are not hard to obtain, a government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or a passport can be far more challenging. Requiring a photo ID to vote is reviled by some to be relative to a poll tax that unfairly targets elderly, poor or minority voters — population segments that traditionally vote democratic.

It is clear that the motivation behind much of the election reform banter that is going on needs to be called into question before enacting egregious laws that are more harmful than the crime they were intended to prevent.   
Robert Scime is a senior majoring in mass communications.
 

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