Our VoiceCulture

Voter ID Laws: Barricades to Democracy

Charlotte Williams • Nov 25, 2011

As can often be the case, a plethora of misinformation is fogging the way to Election 2012. The tactic is not new: throughout history attempts have been made to block groups from participating in the democratic process, with proof of land ownership, poll taxes, racism, and gender discrimination just being a few examples.   

This time around, one issue in particular is being touted by some officials as the necessary key to securing our polls against invasive outsiders: Voter ID/ Voter Suppression. Amid concerns of voter fraud, several states have adopted legislation to change the requirements for voting in this year’s election. These concerns are unjustified and will suppress the votes of people of color, low income, young and elderly alike—voters that will certainly impact the outcome of the election. 

A 2010 report entitled, “Ballot Security and Voter Suppression,” published by the Brennen Center for Justice, found that Voter ID measures threaten legally registered voters and that incidents of voter fraud are very rare: “In fact, Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud.” These initiatives have been found to unnecessarily focus on primarily eligible voters, to create chaos at the polls, and to hamper voting place efficiency. These factors are disproportionately felt in communities of low-income people of color, as they disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters who don’t have transportation, financial resources, or other documents necessary to secure the required two IDs.

Voter ID requirements attack the 14th and 15th amendments of the US Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965: the very amendments put in place to prohibit discrimination or other preemptive measures regarding a citizen’s right to exercise their vote in any election. 

Voter suppression laws also add additional stress, cost, time, and unwarranted inconvenience to the voting process, and require voters to show more than one government issued ID (passport, driver’s licenses, military ID, etc). Laws have already passed in states that are home to pivotal election races,and said laws will impact voting results among those who generally vote along democratic, social justice, and otherwise progressive political frameworks. 

As of November 2011, thirty-one states require ID prior to the casting of a vote, and sixteen states maintain minimal voter identification requirements in order to enhance the rights of its citizens. Those states with stricter photo ID requirements include Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. To vote in the states of Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Dakota photo IDs are required, as well. Only sixteen states fully encourage democratic citizenship by maintaining minimal but legitimate standards.

Should Voter ID laws stand, millions of voters will be denied access to the electoral process, and the process to institute said laws will directly contribute to the recession felt in states already strapped for cash. We as citizens must not accept such measures, as they roll back hard-won civil rights victories.

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