“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
In an attempt to prevent “voter fraud”, the Republican party has been on a quest all over the country to pass laws that would require citizens to have photo identification to vote. Minnesota has been able to avoid this crusade thanks to elected officials placing an emphasis on making the election process as open and accessible as possible. However, there is potential this will all change. After failing to pass a bill that would have made this a law last year (thanks in part to a veto from Governor Dayton), they have decided to take their case directly to the voters. At first glance, this may seem like common sense. A fact the proponents of the constitutional amendment are counting on. However, when one looks beneath the surface this amendment would do far more harm than good.
Requiring voter identification disenfranchises disadvantaged and at-risk voting populations. A similar law in Texas was blocked from being implemented by the Justice Department on the grounds it would disadvantage Hispanic voters unfairly. Mississippi is facing a similar court battle because of its disproportionate effect on the African-American population. Both of these groups tend to be lower-income, and would therefore find it more difficult, if not impossible to obtain the required identification needed to exercise their right to vote. The same holds true for the elderly, disabled, and the homeless. These are arguably the most vulnerable members of our society, and rather than empower them to make their voices heard, this law puts unnecessary obstacles in their way. Something that flies in the face of the ideals that are the foundation of our Democracy.
This law discourages young voters from engaging in the political process. Countless studies have shown those who start voting when they are young are more likely to continue to do so throughout the rest of their lives than those who wait until later to begin their participation. By requiring a photographic identification with a current address, young voters, especially those in college, are being discouraged from taking this crucial step at a time in their lives when it is most important. While many have Driver’s Licenses, its likely the address is not current, which under most versions of the law being proposed would prevent them from voting in the college communities they live in. At a time when many important decisions are being made that will have major consequences for the future of this generation, we should be encouraging them to exercise their right to vote, not making it less appealing.
Voter fraud is statistically insignificant. As many have said, requiring photographic identification to vote is a solution in search of a problem. In fact, the major study on voter fraud in Minnesota did nothing to show a need for a law like this. First of all, it was at best inconclusive, as it was only able to find 113 potential cases in the entire state. Secondly, it was focused on convicted felons voting, something this law would do nothing to prevent. There are better, more inclusive ways to maintain the integrity of our voting system (many of which have already been enacted in Minnesota). While there is always a chance for fraud in an election, sacrificing the rights of so many people should never be done lightly and never without sufficient evidence to justify it. Which in this case does not exist.
Implementing this law is fiscally irresponsible and a bureaucratic nightmare. At a time when there is a national movement to reduce government spending, implementing a massive overhaul of the voting system seems unwise. Requiring everyone to have a photo identification forces the government to spend countless dollars on technology and other resources needed to not only provide, but determine the validity of these IDs. In addition, things like vouching and absentee voting would become far more problematic. A problem that would disenfranchise our soldiers currently serving overseas. Rather than waste money and add more layers to the government, perhaps we should be focusing on more pressing issues, like holding our elected officials more accountable.
Upon closer examination, requiring a photo identification not only disenfranchises large segments of the voting population, but also is an unneeded level of expense when government is being called upon to do more with less. At best this law is an attempt to prevent a minute amount of cases where the system is being abused. At worst it is an attempt at suppressing the vote of a disadvantaged voting bloc that tends to support a certain ideology. Whatever the reason, it is important this trend is not allowed to continue. We must stand up for the voters this type of law would affect, by giving the general public a complete picture of who would be effected if something like this were allowed to pass. The preservation of our democratic ideals depends on it.