VOTER ID LAWS
What’s all the fuss about?
Shouldn’t voters be willing to show identification in order to assure that they are entitled to register and vote? Why does the LWV oppose voter ID laws? Because these laws are unnecessary, burdensome, discriminatory, costly to administer and enforce, and are thinly veiled attempts at voter suppression.
Laws that require would-be voters to produce specific documents to prove their citizenship and identity in order to register and vote purport to be solutions to a problem that does not exist. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud by people who are not eligible to vote, and prosecutions for voting fraud are very rare. Election Day turnout of eligible voters is already at dismally low levels. Legislatures should not be enacting laws to further discourage eligible citizens from voting?
Proposed state laws and those already passed vary in their requirements, but commonly include a photo ID, birth certificate, or some other government-issued verification of citizenship and/or identity. Millions of eligible voters do not possess documents that would meet the requirements. People who lack a government-issued ID are more likely to be poor, minority, or elderly than those who would readily be able to produce one. Requiring one is discriminatory.
· Millions of eligible voters do not have a driver’s license, including senior citizens who no longer drive, urban dwellers who rely on public transportation, and people too poor to own a car.
· Obtaining a state-issued photo-ID may require taking time off work, transportation difficulties for non-drivers, and/or require documents the would-be voter does not possess. There may be fees for the card and for renewing it periodically.
· The majority of Americans do not have a passport. To obtain one costs well over $100.
· Students whose driver’s licenses show their home address but want to vote where they attend college may not be allowed to. College-issued ID cards may not satisfy the law’s requirements.
· Many people do not have a copy of their birth certificate. The process to obtain one may be burdensome and or/costly for them.
· A woman’s birth certificate shows her name at birth, not her married name, which may not satisfy the state’s requirements for voter registration.
· People who want to register to vote at registration drives, at their high school or college, or shortly before an election may not have the necessary documents with them or they may not be readily available.
· People who move or marry shortly before an election may not have had time to update their documents.
· At a time when state budgets are stretched beyond their limits, it is a waste of resources to enforce laws that aren’t needed.
It is sad that legislatures across the country are using their powers to discourage people from participating in democracy rather than on reforms that would enable more people to be active participants in government. We all like the slogan “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” We do not want or need laws that make it harder for eligible voters to enter the arena?
(A bill requiring presentation of a photo ID in order to vote in WV was introduced during the 2011 session. It allowed persons lacking photo ID to vote a provisional ballot. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee and died there. )
Kathy Stoltz, LWVWV, May 2011