Home / Debates / Politics / Voter Identification Laws

Voter Identification Laws

Are voter identification laws justified by the need to combat voting fraud in order to uphold democracy? Or are such laws unnecessary and discriminatory?

All the Yes points:

  1. Voter identification laws are necessary to combat the serious danger of voter fraud. There is a lo…
  2. Voter identification laws are not discriminatory because they apply uniformly to all state residents…
  3. Voting is an important right, but it can be qualified by the government for an important reason. Vo…
  4. Most states with voter identification laws make it easy for those without current forms of photo ID …
  5. There are currently very different identification requirements for voting from state to state, meani…
  6. Studies have shown that nearly a hundred countries around the world have photo identification requir…
  7. People are already required to produce valid identification for a whole range of activities that are…
  8. In the past decade important elections have become more competitive, with key races won by very slim…

All the No points:

Voter identification laws are necessary to combat the serious danger of voter fraud. There is a lo…

Yes because…

Voter identification laws are necessary to combat the serious danger of voter fraud. There is a long history of voter impersonation throughout the United States. Voter fraud not only interferes with individual elections, but also undermines voter confidence in representative government generally. Identification requirements are the most direct and effective way of combating election fraud. As such, states have a compelling interest in implementing voter identification laws.

No because…

Voter impersonation fraud is a smokescreen for a growing conservative strategy of disenfranchising poor and minority voters. The extent of voter fraud has been greatly exaggerated. If voter impersonation were such a grave problem, the government would prosecute violators. Although the Department of Justice poured unprecedented resources into voter fraud prevention under the Bush Administration, they did not prosecute a single offender. This tends to show that the true purpose behind these laws is to resurrect Jim Crow-era barriers to voting for poor and minority communities, who are more likely to vote Democrat.

Voter identification laws are not discriminatory because they apply uniformly to all state residents…

Yes because…

Voter identification laws are not discriminatory because they apply uniformly to all state residents. The laws require everyone to obtain valid photo identification (ID), and therefore cannot be said to target poor and minority communities. No evidence in states that have enacted such laws reveals any discriminatory intent toward those populations. Furthermore, most of the required IDs can be obtained free of charge or, like the Driving License, are held by almost all adults Americans already. The rationale behind these laws is to increase fairness and confidence in American democracy.

No because…

These laws disproportionately impact poor and minority communities, who are less likely to have the money needed to obtain photo ID. Federal passports are not cheap. Although most states do not charge to issue ID, some states do. Furthermore, poor individuals, especially the homeless are also less likely to have the required documents (such as birth certificates, driving licenses, social security cards, etc.). Since people of color are disproportionately poor, the law disproportionately prevents these populations from voting.

Voting is an important right, but it can be qualified by the government for an important reason. Vo…

Yes because…

Voting is an important right, but it can be qualified by the government for an important reason. Voting rights are not made totally meaningless by voter ID laws. In most states, voters who lack identification can still cast provisional ballots that can be checked and counted later. The ID requirement is a mere inconvenience, not a complete barrier to voting. And again, the government’s interest in preventing voter fraud greatly outweighs the minor inconvenience suffered by a small group of voters.

No because…

Voting is a fundamental right that should only be infringed by the government for a compelling reason. The interest in preventing voter fraud is not compelling enough to warrant disenfranchising citizens. In many states, voter ID laws will completely prevent certain people from voting. It is estimated that roughly 12% of the US population has no photo ID. Although the laws allow voters to vote by provisional ballot, this measure is largely meaningless because voters are then required to travel to the county seat and submit an affidavit in order for their vote to be counted. As previously mentioned, the advocates of ID laws’ concerns about fraud are exaggerated and largely pretextual. Therefore, the fraud prevention rationale should not trump the right to vote.

Most states with voter identification laws make it easy for those without current forms of photo ID …

Yes because…

Most states with voter identification laws make it easy for those without current forms of photo ID to obtain them from the government either free of charge or very cheaply. This would additionally benefit minorities and poorer citizens who are currently most likely to lack valid forms of photo ID, and who suffer a range of problems as a result. For example, they may face very high fees for cashing a check without a formal means of identification, or suffer problems in applying for state benefits. Finally, knowing that they already have what they need to vote will make it more likely that they will choose to do so, boosting participation rates.

No because…

Voting identification schemes are prone to a high level of errors associated with any bureaucratic system. Even people who bring the correct ID to the polling station may be disenfranchised as a result of misspellings on the part of the government agents who issued the documents, clerical errors over dates, duplications, and problems in the transmission of data between different levels of government. Women who have recently married and so changed their name are also likely to be denied a vote. All these problems are likely to affect poorer citizens with lower levels of literacy and civic engagement, and so are also discriminatory.

There are currently very different identification requirements for voting from state to state, meani…

Yes because…

There are currently very different identification requirements for voting from state to state, meaning that people very often lose their vote when they move house. Adopting a national voter identification standard based on the 2008 federal standards for American driving licenses (often called the “Real ID Card”) would ensure against voter fraud and make it easier for people to maintain an active citizenship.

No because…

There are several objections to a national voting identification standard. Firstly, voting procedures are methods for the states and the federal government should not interfere in their affairs. And if uniformity was desirable, it would be better to scrap all voter identification laws, returning to the previous situation that you just register to vote when you move and don’t’ need special identification at the polling booth. Finally, a national identity card is in itself an invasion of privacy, leading the way to a police state and the dangers associated with poor data management on the part of the government, including identity theft.

Studies have shown that nearly a hundred countries around the world have photo identification requir…

Yes because…

Studies have shown that nearly a hundred countries around the world have photo identification requirements for voting, so the USA would not be unique in asking its citizens to provide proof of their identity at the polling station. This also suggests that it is not administratively difficult to organise voting IDs, as democracies much poorer than the USA succeed in doing so.

No because…

Many of the countries requiring voting identification cards are not full democracies. In such cases ID can become a political weapon, with supporters of opposition parties being denied votes through government manipulation of the registration system and biased checks at polling stations. It is notable that such a comparable democracy as Great Britain does not have voter identification requirements.

People are already required to produce valid identification for a whole range of activities that are…

Yes because…

People are already required to produce valid identification for a whole range of activities that are less important than casting a vote, such as boarding a plane or buying a drink. Why is voting the only activity where we make it easy to cheat the system?

No because…

If the integrity of our democracy is the main concern, then absentee ballots offer much more opportunities for fraud. Voters who send their ballots through the mail only have to provide a signature, even in states where those voting in person are required to prove their identity in much more rigorous ways. This is unfair and a much more obvious loophole demanding closure.

In the past decade important elections have become more competitive, with key races won by very slim…

Yes because…

In the past decade important elections have become more competitive, with key races won by very slim margins. Examples of this famously include George W Bush’s crucial victory in Florida in 2000 (by 537 votes), Cristine Gregoire’s 2004 election as Governor of Florida by 129 votes, and Al Franken’s Senate election in 2008. In such circumstances a few hundred votes could be decisive and desperate politicians would have every incentive to engage in voting fraud. We need to respond to this changing situation by bringing in new laws to protect the integrity of our democracy.

No because…

Such elections are very much the exception rather than the norm in American politics. On the contrary, most observers are more worried about the polarisation of America into red and blue areas won by large majorities by the dominant party, and by the high rates of incumbency enjoyed by politicians of both parties. In any case so little fraud has been identified (for example, a study found that only 0.0009 of the votes in the 2004 elections in Washington were fraudulent) that even in very tight elections there is no evidence that voting fraud makes any difference to outcomes.

Subscribe
Notify of
2 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dave's secret lover
5 months ago

love you Dave

Top