The Legitimacy of Voter ID Laws

The ability for American citizens to choose their representatives in secure elections, whether at the local, state, or federal level, is an unalienable right. The Department of Justice is currently challenging a North Carolina law which requires that voters show government issued photo identification when they enter the polls, on the basis that the law has discriminatory undertones. However, there is no proof of such malicious intent. The tenth amendment to the Constitution gives states all powers not otherwise given to the federal government, including the right to pass legislation concerning the manner of voting in that particular state. North Carolina’s voter ID law acts within the state’s means to pass laws regarding their voting process, and the Department of Justice has no basis for denouncing a perfectly legitimate piece of legislation.

The North Carolina law requiring citizens to present a photo ID in order to vote is aimed at eliminating any instances of voter fraud, in order to protect the integrity of the democratic system. Photo ID’s are essential for a number of different things, such as buying alcohol, driving a car, picking up a prescription, or even boarding an airplane. The voting process has far more significance than these four activities, so it is logical to assume that a citizen should be able to authenticate their identity before voting. Currently, prospective voters are required to state their name and address in order to submit a ballot, opening the door for possible voter fraud. By passing a voter ID law, North Carolina will significantly reduce any possibility for voter fraud, which the Court has deemed to be a reasonable threat. In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, Indiana’s voter ID law was upheld by the Court by a 6-3 vote. In their decision, the Court stated that “not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election” (“Equal Protection”). While instances of voter fraud are fairly low throughout the nation, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory reasoned on behalf of the voter ID law, stating that “just because you haven’t been robbed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lock your doors at night or when you’re away from home,” arguing that the law is designed to preemptively subvert any attempts at voter fraud (“North Carolina Prosecutor”). The state of North Carolina has a vested interest in preventing any voter fraud due to their role as a prominent swing state. For example, in the 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain, Obama carried the state by just .4% (“Election Results”). In competitive elections, there is a chance that fraud could impact election results, and as a result, this voter ID law is necessary in order to protect the democratic process.

In accordance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, voter ID laws do not unfairly discriminate towards minorities, as shown by the results of previous elections in states that have adopted similar requirements. Many critics of the legislation in North Carolina, however, claim that an ID requirement will lead to the disenfranchisement of minority groups. One active opponent of the laws, Sen. Charles Schumer, stated that the laws are a “body blow to what America stands for — equal access to the poll,” after the Crawford v. Marion County Election Board ruling (“Supreme Court Upholds”). However, evidence suggests voter ID laws do not disproportionally prevent minorities from voting. In fact, after Georgia passed a voter ID law which was implemented in 2007, minority voting at the polls improved to a record high. Election data revealed that “participation among black voters rose by 44 percent from 2006 — before the law was implemented — to 2010. For Hispanics, the increase for the same period was 67 percent. Turnout among whites rose 12 percent” (“Despite Voter ID Law”). Despite the accusations that voter ID laws would hurt minority turnout, participation among African-Americans and Hispanics reached new highs after the legislation was passed, indicating that such laws do not have discriminatory effects. Some critics contend that the voter ID law is essentially a poll tax, but these allegations are also untrue. The law mandates that states provide IDs for free, in line with the twenty-fourth amendment which decrees poll taxes to be unconstitutional. As a result, lower income voters will not be unfairly treated, as they will have the ability to receive photo identification at no cost. Furthermore, senior citizens over the age of seventy will be able to present an expired form of identification, in order to protect their right to vote.

The federal government has a duty to assure citizens of the legitimacy of the voting process, and voter ID laws will help reinforce the American people’s confidence in our elections. After incidents such as the Bush v. Gore fiasco in 2000, states must attempt to win back the electorate’s trust. The Commission on Federal Election Reform is an independent organization which was founded in the wake of the 2000 election, and “was formed to recommend ways to raise confidence in the electoral system.” The commission published a report which recommended voter ID laws to “enhance ballot integrity,” stating that “voter identification laws are bedrocks of a modern election system” (“Building Confidence”). According to public opinion polls, over 75% of Americans support voter ID laws including “63 percent support among Democrats.” Additionally, the “support for such a law is high across virtually all demographic groups” (“Democrats and Republicans Support”). Regardless of race or political affiliation, Americans feel as though voter ID laws should be required component of the electoral process, and as a result, over thirty states have passed some form of voter ID laws.

Voter ID laws will restore trust in the democratic system by protecting the integrity of the electoral process and promoting voter confidence. The laws eliminate nearly all instances of voter fraud, and more importantly, show the American people that the government takes the electoral process just as seriously as boarding a plane. Despite allegations that the ID requirement is discriminatory, states such as Georgia, which passed a voter ID law prior to the 2008 election, have actually seen a remarkable increase in minority voting, particularly among African-Americans and Hispanics. The North Carolina law ensures that both low income and elderly Americans will be able to easily access the polls, by eliminating the associated costs and by allowing seniors to present expired identification. Voter ID laws should be a fundamental component of our electoral process, as they sustain integrity, are nondiscriminatory in nature, and ultimately promote confidence in the democratic process.

Works Cited:

“Building Confidence in U.S. Elections.” Commission on Federal Election Reform, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

“Election Results 2008: North Carolina.” NYTimes.com. N.p., 09 Dec. 2008. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.

“Equal Protection.” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 28 Apr. 2008. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.

McCaffrey, Shannon. “Despite Voter ID Law, Minority Turnout up in Georgia.” The Atlanta

     Journal Constitution. N.p., 03 Sept. 2012. Web. 08 Dec. 2013.

Peragine, John. “North Carolina Prosecutor Takes Shots at the Laws He’s Obliged to Enforce.”

NYTimes.com. N.p., 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

Roff, Peter. “Poll: Democrats and Republicans Support a Voter ID-Check Law.” US News.

U.S.News & World Report, 10 June 2011. Web. 09 Dec. 2013.

Stout, David. “Supreme Court Upholds Voter Identification Law in Indiana.” NYTimes.com.

N.p., 29 Apr. 2008. Web. 8 Dec. 2013.

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