By Daniel Shapiro
As the Presidential election rapidly approaches, millions of Americans are struggling with the question of which candidate to vote for. Unfortunately, in many states, individuals are not facing the difficulties of comparing stances on the economy or foreign policy, but rather, are faced with the obstacle of being able to vote at all.
In 2011, thirty-four states introduced legislation that would require government-issued photo identification to vote. According to the Brennan Center, nearly 11 percent of potential voters in the 2012 Presidential election do not have the required photo identification. That number translates to nearly 3.2 million potential voters- YES, this amount can make a serious difference!
So why are legislators pushing so hard for this policy?
According to Texas Governor Rick Perry, “Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach, and accurately reflect the will of voters.” Election fraud prevention is the main justification for the policy changes. Yet, is election fraud even a real problem? I mean, sure we don’t want our election system to devolve into the Soviet Union, (or even Florida in 2008)but is election fraud really that prevalent in the United States?
Well, not really.
In Texas, over the last 10 years, only 50 voters have been convicted of election fraud, this in a state with a population of more than 25 million.
The rarity of fraud has caused opponents of the legislation to claim this policy shift, “a solution in search of a problem.” Mr. von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation defends the policy shifts claiming, ” I don’t think anybody else says that there is massive fraud in American elections. But there are enough proven cases in the past, throughout our history, and recently, that show you’ve got to take basic steps to prevent people from taking advantage of an election if they want to.” Like any policy point today, this debate has become another divisive issue with strong opinions on each side of the aisle.
A democratic country like the United States should conduct business in a fair manne. As such, lets weigh the pros and cons of photo-identification requirements.
In Texas, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 -120% more likely than a non-Hispanic voter to lack the required identification, resulting in the possible disenfranchisement of over one hundred thousand potential voters. So, we have over one hundred thousand voters in danger of not being able to vote, while an average of 5 illegal votes a year are prevented. Fair? Accurately reflect the will of voters? REALLY??
In an attempt to show the policy shift through both parties, Rhode Island passed similar voter ID requirements under the control of a Democratic Legislature and an independent governor. Ultimately, despite present in a Democrat state like Rhode Island, the issueis more prevalent in Republican controlled statesSome claim the Republican Party is attempting to block voters that typically prefer Democrats, and more and more regions across the country are following in Texas and South Carolina’s footsteps. As Attorney General Eric Holder stated, he Republican Party with a possible Marco Rubio VP Run has targeted Hispanic voters, making their disenfranchisement imprudent for the future. As such, Republicans continue to claim the reasons for the shiftin policy are solely voter fraud prevention.
There is no legitimate reason these policies are being put into place, and there is more than one criticism shared by every opponent. Unfortunately, what is set in stone is that these legislative maneuvers have the potential to disenfranchise large portions of the voting public. Look to the future: 5 out of 11 battleground states have either restrictedvoting rights or are in the process, Texas and Pennsylvania included. Lately, it seems that all any candidate can speak about is the importance of he Hispanic vote, while attempting to sway the Hispanic base on their side- how about this idea? Let them vote.