Top 10 Reasons Photo ID Should Be Required To Vote
The USA is a democracy. The Founding Fathers worked hard to establish not only independence from foreign rule but to create a nation where the leaders were answerable to the people.
The right to vote is a cornerstone of American Democracy and it is one that has been hotly contested throughout the history of the US. The nation, after all, was founded following a dispute about a lack of representation! From those early crusaders for the concept of ‘no taxation without representation’ to the campaigns for women’s suffrage and the black vote people have instinctively understood the importance of the right to vote and how powerful that is. By withdrawing or restricting voting rights a state or nation is effectively telling someone that they are not important, that their voice does not deserve to be heard.
In recent years the debate on voting rights has centered on the question of voter ID – whether it is required to prevent fraud at the polls or whether regulations imposing the requirement to show ID before voting is an unfair restriction on the right to vote that disproportionately affects black and minority ethnic voters and those from the poorer segments of society.
We believe that Voter ID is important and have listed the top 10 reasons why.
Many States Already Require ID To Vote. Harmonizing The Requirement Across All 50 States Makes Sense
As a federal democracy each state is entitled to control its own voting laws, although there are some similarities there are also some differences. There is, at present, no federally governed, unified system of voting. That is as it should be, the States are best placed to ensure that they have a voting system that is appropriate for and works for the needs of their residents but it does mean that registration and voting requirements are confusing, particularly for people who move state regularly.
While some states allow American citizens to vote without ID 34 States require a voter to present some element of ID. The type of ID that has to be presented varies.
So called ‘’strict’ ID laws require a voter to present ID. If they do not have any ID on their person they are provided with a separate ballot which is kept back from the main count. If the voter returns with acceptable ID within a specified period of time the vote is counted. If they do not the vote is considered void. Non strict states allow a voter who does not have ID to swear an affidavit as to their identity or be identified by a polling official if they are known to them personally. Some states (both strict and non strict) require photo ID whereas non photo ID is acceptable in others.
It is ridiculous for there to be such a mish mash of different rules and requirements making it very confusing for people who move from state to state. While we appreciate that the practices and procedures related to voting are issues for each individual state to mandate we do think that there should be a minimum requirement to produce a photo ID before being permitted to vote.
Requiring The Production Of Photo ID Does Not Reduce Voter Turn Out
Those who are opposed to the introduction of the requirement to produce photo ID prior to voting often like to claim that this is an unfair imposition, a bureaucratic hassle that represents an insurmountable hurdle to voting. The requirement, they claim, will make people feel that it is too difficult to vote and therefore reduce voter turnout at elections. It is also a requirement, they say, that will disproportionately affect turnout amongst the young, the poor and minorities.
At first glance this seems to be a valid point – voting should be easy and quick and anything that stands in the way of that should be eliminated. In other words we should be making it easier not harder to vote. In reality, however, these claims are nothing more than hyperbole. The requirement to produce photo ID has not reduced voter turnout in locations in which it is required. Research undertaken in Indiana (a state which opponents of voter ID claim has some of the most draconian photo ID requirements in the US) showed that voter turnout actually increased in the elections after the ID legislation was enacted. Another wider study confirmed the results from Indiana showing that voter ID requirements do not affect voter turnout.
The Requirement To Produce ID Will Not Compromise The Anonymity Of The Vote Itself
Opponents of the introduction of photo based voter ID like to claim that it will compromise what many believe to be a key tenet of our democracy – the secret ballot.
Current voting systems vary state to state. Some states number a stub of the ballot which is kept separately so that the number of votes in the ballot box can be checked against the number of stubs. The stubs prove that a voter has cast their vote but the actual vote itself is completely secret. Some states do have the number on the ballot itself as well as the stub but this has been declared constitutional by a federal judge has ruled that the constitution of the US does not guarantee a secret ballot. .
This numbering of ballots is not unusual; in the UK the number of the voting slip is recorded against the name of the individual. This means that, in theory, it could be possible to track how someone has voted and obviate the anonymity of a vote but this can only be done by certain individuals when mandated by an Election Court under certain specific circumstances. The system has been in place since 1872 and the secret ballot has never yet been overturned. It is notable that the UK does not (in the majority of areas) require voters to provide ID in order to vote.
Asking someone to produce photo ID will not make it any easier or any harder for officials (or anyone else) to track how someone has voted, it will not change the status quo at all.
Requiring Photo ID Is Not A De-Facto Poll Tax
Another popular complaint against the concept of voter ID requirements is the thought that requiring voters to pay to obtain ID is a de-facto poll tax and that their effect is exactly the same as that of the poll tax used by some Sothern states to prevent poor and black people from casting their votes. ID they claim, is costly to obtain, and their statements are often backed with scary looking statistics that show large percentages of various minorities that do not have access to photo ID.
This claim is yet more hyperbole. The reality is that photo ID is required to do a lot of things, to fly, to drive, to buy alcohol, open a bank account or even to access some government buildings, most Americans will, therefore already have some form of photo ID as a matter of course. It is true that the majority of people who do not have photo ID will be from the more disadvantaged sectors of society but states that require photo ID to vote have put procedures in place to make free photo ID available to everyone. This provision can be extended nationwide.
Complainants counter these sensible policies with claims that the underlying documents required to obtain the free photo ID are costly but that is not the case. One of the documents required is a birth certificate, a basic document that everyone needs to access certain services including schooling. In the event that the proposals for voter photo ID become a federal requirement it should be possible to issue free photo ID through schools as the teachers will be able to verify identity. This would be quick, simple and ensure that all school leavers have easy access to a free photo ID.
The Requirement For Photo ID Is Not An Imposition Of A Federal Identity Card By The Back Door
If it is not one thing it is another – when opponents to photo voter ID’s complaints about a de-facto poll tax are answered (see above) they come up with another equally bizarre and outrageous complaint. That requiring everyone to have photo ID (or providing free photo ID) is an attempt to impose a requirement that all Americans have a federal identity card by the back door.
Federal ID cards are not a popular concept. While some people believe that they will help improve security the majority cherish the fact that America is a country that allows people to walk around without having to identify themselves to the authorities. Most also believe that national ID cards would increase the potential for abuse of privacy, from government, from individuals and from corporations.
Requiring voters to produce a photo ID to prove they are who they say they are is a very different thing. It is no different to requiring all people to prove they are who they say they are at border crossings or when entering a government office. There are no proposals to say that a free photo ID card would be the only acceptable form of photo ID, passports and driving licenses are currently acceptable in states with photo ID requirements and should continue to be so. There is also no suggestion that the free ID cards would need to be carried at all times and shown to law enforcement officials on request (something which would form a key part of a national identity card scheme).