Policy Primer: Voter ID laws

Policy+Primer%3A+Voter+ID+laws

Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

  Although the 2012 Election is looming nearer and nearer, many students find themselves asking “Why should I care?” The Red Ledger will be profiling a hot-button issue featured this election season every week until Nov. 6, and provide each candidate’s stance on that issue, background context and how it applies to students like you.

VOTER ID LAWS: WHAT ARE THEY?

This past year has seen a massive push toward strengthening security at the polls for the 2012 election. Over fears of voter fraud, 35 states have introduced legislation requiring government-issued photo identification at polls, with the bills being signed into law in 8 of them- including Texas.

However, most of these laws have been struck down by federal courts. Federal judges in Washington, D.C. felt that these laws violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, originally instituted to ensure that southern states did not unfairly discriminate against minorities, as they had previously done in the past with poll taxes, literacy tests and intimidation techniques to prevent African Americans from voting.

The federal court rulings have caused uproar among Republicans, who feel that the electoral process is becoming increasingly insecure and praise from Democrats, who feared that the new laws would unfairly turn away low-income and minority voters. Currently it is estimated that over 21 million American citizens do not have government-issued photo ID that they would be required to present at polls.

HOW DOES IT AFFECT ME?

Not only are racial minorities and low-income citizens the least likely to have government-issued photo ID, but students are as well. Had the Texas law remained intact, if you were registered to vote but left your driver’s license at home – or didn’t have a driver’s license or other government ID to begin with – you would be turned away at the polls. Even though these laws aren’t immediately being put into effect, the political party that takes Congress of the White House come January will continue to push for either their reinstatement or their repeal.

WHAT DO REPUBLICANS THINK ABOUT VOTER ID LAWS?

Republicans were the prime supporters of the new laws. They saw the new laws as an opportunity to clean up a much-bloated voter registration system and cut down on voter fraud, a serious albeit infrequent crime. Under these laws, citizens who did not have government-issued photo ID and couldn’t afford it would be given a free identification card by state governments- a service that would cost millions of dollars. However, for many Republicans, there is no step that is too big to take to ensure the validity and safety of the democratic process.

WHAT DO DEMOCRATS THINK ABOUT VOTER ID LAWS?

Naturally, Democrats all over are worried about these laws, and it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why: poor people, minorities and students almost always tend to vote Democratic each election season. They view the Republican effort to strengthen voting laws as a political ploy to decrease turnout for president Obama and other Democrats in congressional races. Additionally they point to the infrequent occurrence of voter fraud to make their case: the first half of the last decade, only about .00000013 percent of the total votes cast, resulted in convictions or guilty pleas of voter fraud.

Have an opinion on Voter ID Laws? Want to share your suggestion for next week’s policy primer? Or just want to learn more about this week’s topic? Let us know in the comments!