The right to vote appears 5 times in the United States Constitution – more than any other right prescribed in the Constitution. [i] Until recently, one of the questions a person had to answer in order to become a naturalized citizen of the U.S. was “What is the most important right granted to U.S. Citizens?” The correct answer, according the U.S. government, was the right to vote.[ii]
Currently, 32 states in the U.S. have enacted voter identification laws which require voters to present some form of identification at the polls. Of these states, 17 require photo identification. Although North Carolina does not require a photo ID in order to vote at the moment, this will soon change as a result of the Voter Information Verification Act that was passed in 2013. Beginning in 2016, voters in North Carolina will be required to present a photo ID at the polls.[iii]
Acceptable forms of photo identification differ from state to state. For example, Wisconsin allows voters to use their student ID’s as an acceptable form of photo identification, but does not recognize military veteran ID’s. In Texas, voters are allowed to present a gun license registration as an acceptable form of photo ID.[iv] Starting in 2016, North Carolina will accept the following forms of photo identification:
- Unexpired NC Drivers’ license, including a learners’ permit or provisional license
- Unexpired NC non-operators identification card (DMV ID Card)
- Unexpired United States passport
- United States military identification card
- Veterans Identification Card
- Tribal enrollment card issued by a federally recognized tribe
- Tribal enrollment card issued by tribe recognized by NC
- Out-of-state drivers’ license or non-operators identification card (valid only if the person’s voter registration date in the county is within 90 days of the date of the election)
Supporters of voter ID laws argue that such requirements are necessary in order to prevent in-person voter fraud at the polls. Photo ID requirements also prevent against the risk of non-eligible voters, such as non-citizens or people under the age of 18 years, from voting. Furthermore, voter ID laws help promote accurate record keeping by preventing people from voting in the wrong or in multiple precincts. So, just how prevalent is in-person voter fraud?
Voter Fraud Facts
- Since 2000, there has been:
- 47,000 UFO sightings
- 441 Americans killed by lightening, and
- 10 credible cases of in-person voter fraud
- This means, out of 146 million registered voters, there is one case of voter fraud for every 14.6 million eligible votes. You are 12 times more likely to get struck by lightening.
- In Wisconsin, one of the 17 states that require photo identification to vote, zero cases of in-person voter fraud occurred during the 2004, 2008, 2010, and 2012 elections in the state.
- Every state that requires photo identification to vote has been under the control of a Republican majority legislature at the time the voter ID law was passed.
- Fox News weighed in on the topic by acknowledging that “Voter ID Laws Target Rarely Occurring Voter Fraud” See here: www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/24/voter-id-laws-target-rarely-occuring-voter-fraud
Another compelling argument in support of voter ID laws is that requiring photo identification might prevent persons who are too young or not citizens from voting. However, state-issued ID’s are available to non-citizens – they only need to show proof of legal presence in the US. A non-citizen that is a permanent resident of the US only needs a copy of his foreign passport and immigration documents to obtain a photo ID. Therefore, voter ID laws do not prevent non-citizens from voting.
As for preventing underage voters from voting? States that allow a voter to present a student ID as an acceptable form of photo identification only require proof of enrollment, the student’s signature, and the date of issuance. There is no requirement that the student’s birth date be listed. Therefore, the law does not prevent against young voters from voting because an underage student who is determined to vote can merely present his student ID, which offers no proof of age.
The next argument in support of voter ID laws is that it helps promote accurate record keeping, so that people who have moved do not vote at the wrong precinct. However, in North Carolina, the address on a voter’s ID does not have to match his or her voting address. So, for instance, if you registered to vote in Mecklenburg County and have since moved to a different address within the county, you may vote at any precinct within the county.
Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge, approved the very first photo ID voting law in the US in 2008. Now, six years and half years later, Judge Posner states that even though voter identification laws are being touted as necessary to prevent in person voter fraud, repeated investigations of these allegations show that there is virtually no in-person voter fraud nationally.
Opponents of voter ID laws argue that these restrictions are imposed by Republican legislatures in order to make it difficult for minority voters, a majority of whom vote Democrat, to vote. Requiring photo identification in order to vote places a series of obstacles in front of voters that do not have a photo ID that meets their states requirements.
First, an eligible voter who lacks a photo ID must educate himself on the process of obtaining an ID. Though this may be easy for some, voters with lower levels of education may have difficulty understanding the process to know where to start.
Some states, including North Carolina, offer voters a free state ID card. However, many eligible voters who lack a photo ID are low-income individuals. Lack of a photo ID also means that they do not have a driver’s license, and therefore they must either rely on public transportation or another source to get to the DMV. Not all DMV locations are accessible by public transit.
Many eligible voters that lack a photo ID are low-income individuals. Those who lack the proper documents necessary to obtain a state ID card are placed with the additional burden of acquiring extra resources, such as a birth certificate, social security card, or school records. This places additional time constraints and monetary expenses on the voter.
Voter ID laws that require a voter to present a photo ID in order to vote impose many obstacles on those who lack a photo ID. Such laws have been shown to ultimately deter voters from voting, either because the voter does not understand the process to get an ID, lacks the time or money, or views the process as more trouble than it’s worth. These restrictions placed on voters through voter ID laws ultimately prevent some eligible voters from exercising the most important right afforded to them under the Constitution, the right to vote.
~Mili Banerji, ‘L14~