Since the framers of the U.S. Constitution convened 200 years ago, citizens’ right to vote has been held sacrosanct as a cornerstone of democracy.
Lately, there have been disputes over whether voter identification should be required in order to vote.
Some states, such as Texas and North Carolina, have instituted such laws to allegedly limit voter fraud. These laws, proponents argue, would maintain the integrity of elections.
However, they have been criticized for disenfranchising racial minorities, the elderly, and the poor.
Because such a law could disenfranchise those who cannot obtain the necessary documents, the potentially harmful effects would outweigh the benefits of such laws. Therefore, it is not fair to require photo identification to vote.
Voter ID laws are not discriminatory on their face, but they clearly discriminate against poor and working-class Americans.
Though many Americans can easily afford the time and cost necessary to obtain valid identification, such as a driver’s license, homeless and poor citizens often do not have the money to afford identification.
In addition, many working-class citizens work long hours or multiple jobs and simply cannot take time off to obtain identification. Thus, these people would become disenfranchised because they are less fortunate than some of their fellow citizens.
Supporters claim that requiring photo identification to vote would prevent people from fraudulently casting their ballot.
Although this position is logical, in reality it seeks to address a problem that barely exists.
For example, in Texas only four voter impersonation cases were prosecuted between 2002 and 2012. Nationwide, these numbers are even lower: only 40 cases of voter fraud were brought between 2002 and 2005.
Put simply, voter identification laws seek to prevent a crime that hardly exists. When considering this reality, it seems unfair, unjust, and, most importantly, unconstitutional to mandate the presentation of photo identification in order to vote.
If, despite the discriminatory effects, the government reasonably believes that proof of identity is necessary to preserve the U.S. democratic system, there are other ways to improve the integrity of elections.
Distributing photo ID to all registered voters would make the system practical, but that would require money from a government aching with debt.
One possibility is to require a short, personal quiz when citizens register to vote. Much like what happens on Web sites when a user forgets a password, prospective voters would be quizzed on this information at the polls.
Though not as precise as photo identification, it is a reasonable approach given the low likelihood that voter fraud will occur at all.
Thomas Paine once said, “The right of voting for representation is the primary right by which other rights are protected.”
The seeds of oppression are sown when a country renders its own voiceless.
Proposed voter identification laws have questionable value and clearly disenfranchise U.S. citizens.
American voting integrity must be protected, but not at the expense of its citizens. With some careful planning, both can be achieved.