Written by: Boot Bullwinkle
Due to strong support from the Republican Party, voter identification (ID) laws have been adopted by states across the nation to ensure that registered voters are not impersonators casting a vote for another person. Voters are required to present a valid form of government identification, or for some states, a current utility bill or bank statement. About 21 million eligible voters will be disenfranchised because of these laws, and it’s imperative that these laws get struck down.
A study published in September by researchers affiliated with the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis found that the turnout at this year’s election by young people of color ages 18 to 29 could fall between 538,000 voters to 696,000 in states with photo ID laws. This fall in voter turnout is clearly detrimental to the overall goals of a democratic election, as every eligible citizen should have the right to vote on Election Day without laws barring them from election booths.
These laws are starting to be recognized for what they truly are: unconstitutional. On Aug. 15, a Pennsylvania judge dismissed the law, but after a plaintiff appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court vacated the judge’s ruling with a 4-2 vote and returned the case for further review. Luckily for Pennsylvania voters, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson blocked the law from taking effect only for the upcoming Nov. 6 election, saying that he wasn’t sure if voters who are currently denied to vote by Pennsylvania’s stricter photo ID law would be able to obtain a state-issued photo ID before the election in an Oct. 2 ruling.
After the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans gained 63 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and recaptured the majority. They’re now using this power to their advantage by trying to pass legislature to restrict Democratic voting, but Democratic governors have struck down the laws in some states. That hasn’t stopped the voter ID laws from being enacted in some form by 30 states by premise that the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. They argue that these laws combat the same voter fraud cases that plagued the last election, but “The New York Times” found in 2007 that only 126 cases of voter fraud have been filed by the Justice Department. Out of those, only 86 were convicted, as most of the cases happened as a result of confusion over voter eligibility.
Furthermore, News21, a national investigative reporting project, identified 10 voter impersonation cases out of 2,068 alleged election fraud cases since 2000. That’s one voter out of every 15 million—substantially fewer than the 21 million whose voice will be stifled in the next presidential election.
According to a study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, 11 percent of eligible voters lack the necessary identification in states that require photo ID. That is roughly 21 million voters who will not be able to cast their vote in the election. Those included in this disenfranchised group tend to vote Democrat, as they are predominantly elderly, minority, youth and low-income groups. It is no wonder that these laws are strongly supported by Republicans, while they are widely opposed by Democrats.
President Barack Obama’s second term is leaning heavily on the vote of minorities who vote Democratic, and they could be the deciding factor in swing states. With healthcare, education and social security being some of the largest issues on the table, it’s these 21 million citizens who need the loudest voice at the voting booths this coming election. It is clear, however, that is the GOP’s plan to silence these voices in November.