New Voter ID Laws and Their Significance

By Nicole Crossey
Widener University American Government Student

To think of how far America has come, since its inception 236 years ago, is amazing! Voting rights have changed dramatically. The 15th Amendment gave everyone the right to vote regardless of race, the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, and the 26th Amendment allowed anyone 18 years and older to vote. Voting is an inalienable right. Allowing everyone’s voice to be heard in a federal republic is one of the United States’ shining attributes.

 However, is our voting system flawed? Does voter fraud exist?

 In Choicet and Valdes’s “New voting measures could deter Latinos, civil rights group says”, some believe “voter fraud is non-existent”. New voter ID laws are “trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and has a disparate impact on people of color”. However, voter fraud is a growing problem. The increase in absentee voting has garnered the concern of watchdog groups. Some people have voted twice in different states because absentee voting laws have been loosened in many states.

 It is only logical that the government wants to preserve the “integrity of the vote”. New voter ID laws require voters to “prove their citizenship or be purged from voting rolls”. Some efforts of these new laws include:  purging rolls of non-citizen voters, proof of citizenship requirements for voter registration, and photo ID laws.

What’s the big deal about these laws? Well, nearly “half of the nation’s states have instituted new voting measures” and these measures could limit minorities from “heading to the polls”. Some calculate that as many as “10 million Latinos will be prevented from registering and heading to the polls in the 2012 elections”. However, some postulate that this estimate is “ridiculous”.

This debate is “divided right down party lines”. Democrats believe that the “new measures limit minority turnout in crucial battleground states”, while Republicans believe that the new measures “fight fraud”. Historically, minorities lean towards being a Democrat so these new measures would hurt Democrats in the polls.

The notion of “discriminating” against the minority community led to a lot of controversy regarding the Pennsylvania voter ID law, which requires voters to present a state-issued photo ID. While this law was sent back to Pennsylvania’s lower courts to “assess alternative forms of identification and whether the new law disenfranchises voters”, the controversy remains and more questions arise. Some argue that this law “strengthens voting procedures and protects against fraud”, but others question how they will obtain the state-issued photo ID. This is harder than one may think. The poor, elderly, and handicapped will have a difficult time going to the DMV and paying for the new ID. This also inconveniences people who live in urban areas and who ride public transport because they probably will not have driver’s license.

Are these laws being supported on the basis of preserving the integrity of our government or in the best interest of the people? It seems as though the “arguments for the voter laws are based on analysis of government documents and data, media reports and scholarly works”—not thinking about the effects they might have on people. Some also argue the laws infringe on their inalienable right to vote.

Personally, I think that the new voter ID laws are just and well-founded. However, I think that the government DOES need to give people time and outlets to obtain the necessary identification. Therefore, I don’t think the Pennsylvania voter ID law should be enforced for this election. I think these new laws will scare some people of minority to not vote and, therefore, these laws will have a major impact on this election.

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