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More than half of America’s states now have Voter ID laws. Nine states have passed or strengthened their voter ID laws since 2008, when President Barack Obama became the first African-American President.
Critics say this is a direct rollback on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibited the government from blocking people’s right to vote by using Jim Crow era tactics, such as literacy tests.
Pennsylvania’s General Assembly passed Voter ID legislation on Wednesday. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett then signed legislation law making Pennsylvania the 32nd state to adopt a Voter Identification law.
More than half the states in America have some form of voter ID laws. Nine states, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, have strict photo ID guidelines requiring photos must be used shown to vote. Another seven states ask for a photo ID, but will allow people to vote if they can provide another form of identification or meet other criteria. Those states are Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan and South Dakota. Other states require non-photo IDs which can include a bank statement or utility bill in some instances. Those states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Washington State.
GOP leaders say voter ID laws are needed to prevent widespread voter fraud from occurring. Republican leaders say people who are not on voter registration rolls, double voters and dead people have voted in previous elections. The GOP said Democratic-supportive organizations are to blame because they have submitted illegal voter registration ID cards.
There have been instances of voter fraud but it is extremely rare, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a division of the New York University School of Law. The Center is a non-partisan public policy and law institute which advocates for voting rights, campaign finance reform, civil justice, fair courts and racial justice.
“There is no documented wave or trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible,” according to a Justice Center policy brief.
The Center further says there is no proof that non-profit organizations have illegally registered voters. Many of the duplicate voting discrepancies have arisen through computer mistakes, people voting in two states or voting for a deceased relative. Reports from the Center also point out that these voting fraud cases would not have been prevented by asking for photo identification.
“We find absolutely no proven cases of fraudulent votes that could be prevented by the restrictive ID law being challenged,” the Justice Center said after reviewing more than 250 claims of fraud.
An interview from a top Texas Republican Party member suggests that the Republicans know that voter fraud is not an expanding problem, yet Republicans are trying to discourage primarily Democratic voters from the polls.
In a May 2007 Houston Chronicle article, former Political Director for the Texas Republican Party Royal Masset said Republicans could gain 3 percent of votes because requiring photo IDs could result in less Democratic voters casting ballots.
“Among Republicans it is an ‘article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections,’ Masset said. He doesn’t agree with that, but does believe that requiring photo IDs could cause enough of a dropoff in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent to the Republican vote,” stated the Houston Chronicle article.
Democrats are continuing to fight against the recent wave of Voter ID registration laws. The Obama Administration’s Justice Department rejected Texas preclearance for its Voter ID law. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires Texas and 15 other states to submit changes to their Voting ID laws to the federal government for review to ensure minorities would not be discriminated against.
U.S. Asst. Attorney General Thomas Perez wrote in a letter to the Texas Secretary of State’s Director of Elections, that the Department of Justice objected to Texas’ voter identification law because it could directly and adversely affect the voting rights of up to nearly 604,000 of registered voting Hispanics. The state did not provide any data regarding how African-American or Asian voters would be impacted by the new law.
The Texas law would require people to show a state-issued id, either a driver license, personal ID card, military ID card, passport, a U.S. citizenship certificate with photo, concealed handgun permit or free voting ID card. The driver license, personal ID cards are only available through the Department of Public Safety. The lack of extended hours, the distance some people would have to travel and the availability of people affected having a vehicle to travel to a DPS office.
Only 49 of the 221 state’s DPS offices have extended hours and 81 out of the state’s 254 counties do not have an office, Perez letter stated.
Perez letter also points out that the state did not show any “significant in-person voter impersonation not already addressed by the state’s existing laws.”
The state of Texas has the option of asking the Department of Justice to reconsider its decision or seek a decision from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Image Courtesey of Gage Skidmore