How to Solve the Voter ID Debate

It's time for Congress to create a federal ID card that would guarantee eligible voters the right to cast a ballot

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In the Jim Crow South, the “Powers-That-Be” had ways of preventing blacks from voting: poll taxes and literacy tests. The Supreme Court and Congress eliminated those obstacles decades ago, but today there is a new way of keeping eligible voters from casting ballots: overly restrictive voter ID laws.

Pennsylvania recently adopted a new voter ID law that critics say could prevent as many as 1.5 million people from voting. A new Texas law could disenfranchise about as many. Eleven states have adopted new voter ID laws just since the 2010 elections. By one estimate, as many as 10% of eligible voters nationwide lack the documentation required by voter ID laws.

There is a simple solution to this problem. It is time for congress to create a federal ID card that would guarantee people the right to cast a ballot.

Election laws and policies are for the most part set by the states. States have traditionally been easygoing about voter ID — and many still are. There is no actual need to tighten voter ID rules: there have been extraordinarily few instances of people committing fraud at the polls. One study found that more Americans are killed by lightening in a year than are convicted of federal election fraud.

(MORE: When Voter Registration Is a Crime)

The real reason tough new voter ID laws are cropping up across the country is that they make it difficult for anyone without drivers’ licenses to vote — often very difficult. In some parts of Texas, people have to drive 200 miles roundtrip to get the ID they need. In some states, it can cost as much as $25 to get necessary documentation to vote. The state poll taxes that the Supreme Court struck down in the 1960s cost about $10 in current dollars.

Voter ID laws have a disproportionate impact on groups that lean democratic — including blacks, hispanics and students. In honest moments, backers of voter ID laws will admit what they are up to. Last month, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said that the state’s new voter ID law would “allow Governor Romney to win Pennsylvania.”

Meanwhile, legal challenges to voter ID laws have not fared well. In 2008, the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law. The court said that there was not enough evidence that the law was stopping eligible voters from casting ballots. (A few weeks later, 10 elderly nuns were barred from voting in Indiana because they lacked proper ID.)

(MORE: The New Battle over Voting Rights)

Voting in presidential and congressional elections is a national right — and the national government should protect it. In the Civil Rights Era, Congress took on this role: it passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to ensure that blacks in states like Mississippi and Alabama were able to vote. Now, the federal government should step in and make national voter ID cards available to ensure that voters in states with tough ID laws are not disenfranchised.

The federal government could establish more voter-friendly rules for such an ID.  It could ensure that voters do not have to pay for the ID or the underlying documents. These IDs could be dispensed at post offices, which are located in every community. The government could even proactively send them out to citizens when they turn 18.

Not that a national voter ID card doesn’t have some potential problems which would have to be avoided. It should not replace state voter IDs — it should simply be an alternative. That way, people who currently have ID that allows them to vote would not have to jump through a new hoop. And national voter ID should not become a mandatory national ID card — something civil libertarians rightly oppose for having police-state overtones. It should be strictly optional.

Voter ID laws that exclude eligible voters have become just another partisan election tactic — like super-PAC fundraising or TV attack ads. That violates one of the most essential principles of American democracy — that, as the Declaration of Independence declares, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Supporters of tough voter ID laws are not afraid of vote fraud — they are afraid of democracy.

MORE: Should We Outsource Congress?

25 comments
Rastapopoulos
Rastapopoulos

Hi, I'm French and I'm quite curious about the US system. 

Is there a mandatory national ID card ? If no, how someone who hasn't a driver's license can prove their ID ? 

I've read that having a Social Security Number was not a requirement (as joining the Social Security), is there any situation in which having a SSN is required ?

Gwen Young
Gwen Young

This whole situation is appalling.  It's telling part of the population that they don't matter. Everybody matters.

Buck Rogers
Buck Rogers

You need an ID to get into Sam's club.  I'm confident most of Americans won't have a problem with a national ID program to disallow cheaters from gaming the voting system.  It's not rocket science.

Flash1259
Flash1259

Republicans have created more voter fraud on their own just to justify having  a VOTER ID ( AKA SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS) so they can disenfranchise many  low income voters.

Also  republicans have this idea  that  your drivers license should be mailed to you to stop fraud.  how is that going to happen?  people are getting their SS checks ripped off  because people  steal mail.  and now in Wisconsin They can steal your drivers License 

John Luma
John Luma

Ha-ha-ha!  he laughed sarcastically. Do you honestly think this Tea Party Congress has any intention of allowing our President any chance of winning? No, for these guys it's easier to subvert the law and steal elections any way they can: Just make sure the Democratic voters can't cast a ballot... genius! And fascism all the way.

thinksome1
thinksome1

Is the number of convictions for voter fraud an accurate measure of actual voter fraud? No. Is protecting the rights of eligible voters important? I believe so. Is requiring a photo ID a good way to protect voter rights? Seems to be. Democrats and Republicians routinely spend millions each year fighting over this issue. Can't that money be used instead to help eligble people get photo IDs? Can't the Democrats use some of that PAC money to insure their supporters have photo ID's rather than running senseless ads? Can't the government provide for the poor in this case, just like they do for people who need food assistance? Most people in this country drive a car, hence they will have no trouble voting.  Pass voter photo ID laws in every state and then help the people that need it to get one, rather than leaving our voting rights at risk. Don't tell me we don't have the recources to make this happen.

What is more important, protecting everyone's voter rights or protecting Democrat supporter voter rights?

frankblank
frankblank

So did you research the answers to your questions by gazing deeply into your rear orifice? 

Disc_Coastie
Disc_Coastie

Nice gloss over of the facts... why not carry some more water for the demoncrat party

Flash1259
Flash1259

that water is being stolen to create Republican KOOLAID

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"national voter ID should not become a mandatory national ID card"-- and how are you going to stop that from happening, Mr. Cohen?

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

Big Brother -- why don't you just tattoo id numbers on everyone or implant microchips

-- As the Brennan Center for Justice notes, voter fraud happens at a rate of 0.0004 percent. Which means, less frequently than people are struck and killed by a bolt of lightning. -- 

LoudRambler
LoudRambler

 I think that US should have some form of a semi-mandatory federal ID.

 Current system is too balkanized. What's even worse is that state ID's create a lot more opportunity for fraud than a sort of federal ID; i.e. if you know how to game the system, it is actually easier to obtain a fake state ID than, say, a US passport.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

A nonpartisan election integrity group has sent legal notices to 160 counties across the U.S. that it says have more voters on its registration rolls than actual live, eligible voters — and thus represent potential hotbeds for election fraud.

The Houston-based True the Vote said the counties may be in violation of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, which mandates that election officials maintain clean voter rolls by removing people who have died, moved away or are no longer eligible to vote. True the Vote is demanding each of the counties show proof of compliance or they’ll bring civil suit.

The counties in question are spread across 19 states that together account for 203 electoral college votes, including six current battleground states. Among the counties are LaSalle, Ill., which True the Vote identified as having 520 percent voter registration; Jefferson, Miss. with more than 230 percent; and Hanson, S.D. with 165 percent.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

A massive load of b.s.

You love that stuff, don't ya, Terp.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamai...

~

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

The Social Security Administration doesn't see dead people. But it does send them checks. About $100 million worth.

The latest report from Social Security's inspector general estimates that the agency sent $99 million in checks to 890 "deceased beneficiaries" -- payments it could have have prevented had it used data from Medicare claims to figure out who's dead.

The IG also estimates that Social Security will pay out about $9 million to dead people in the next year.

Gee, dead people cash checks!  Do you think any "dead people" vote?  And, not just the dead in Chicago!

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

Of course, anybody who does not agree with you....

I "love" facts...not opinion in a political cartoon.  

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

I've got a better idea, Adam Cohen.

The media simply reports the facts: that this "debate" is nothing more than cover for GOP voter suppression efforts.

If pushing this nonsense cost the GOP, and it would if the press called the balls and strikes honestly (for a change), they'd drop the phony issue like a hot pancake.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

"Reporters Know What the 'Voter ID' Push Is Really About. Why Don't They Just Say So?"

~

sixtymile
sixtymile

Contrast this alleged risk of a "police-state" with citizens losing control of their government because they can't vote, and I think there is no contest which of these is the greater and more real threat.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

If anyone had any doubts that the Republican Party is the party of the 1% and not the party of democracy, the voter ID laws passed by Republicans in recent years prove it. For all their flag waving and jingoism, the Republicans have set out to destroy American democracy and replace it with an oligarchy of the few. I consider Mitt Romney, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Karl Rove, and the Koch brothers, to name a few, more of a threat to the future of America than al Qaeda and radical Islam ever could be. A national voter ID, using fingerprints or eye scans, is a good idea, but it will never pass. Too many groups don't want to be accountable (for example, evangelicals believe a national ID is a tool of the anti-christ, and many ultra-conservatives see it as an attempt to limit freedom). Too bad we, as a people, have reached a point where good sense is not considered good governance.

thinksome1
thinksome1

I don't know anyone who does not have a photo ID. I do not know anyone in my church who thinks a national ID is a tool of the antichrist. I don't know anyone with good sense that thinks having a photo ID is a bad idea for voters. The only thing I know for sure is that you vote Democrat.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Yes, I do vote for the Democratic Party. The main reason I do that is because I have seen what happens when Republicans are managing the country.

Rochelleekd
Rochelleekd

David implied I cannot believe that some people able to get paid $9328 in four weeks on the network. did you see this(Click on menu Home)

Eva F. Stever
Eva F. Stever

I think there is no contest which of these is the greater and more real threat...ChanceReach4Million.blogspot.com