The Controversy Over Voter Identification Laws

2213 words - 9 pages

In 2002, with the intention of updating election technology, hampering voter fraud, and increasing faith in the electoral system, President George W. Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act (Gerken 14). Since the implementation of this act, controversial voter identification laws have begun springing up all over the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “thirty-one states require all voters to show ID before voting at the polls. In fifteen of these, the ID must include a photo of the voter; in the remaining sixteen, non-photo forms of ID are acceptable” (Voter Identification Requirements). In 2005 Indiana lawmakers passed one of the strictest voter identification laws in the country requiring voters to present an unexpired photo identification card issued by the state or federal government before gaining access to vote (Barreto, Nuño, and Sanchez 111). The constitutionality of this law was challenged, and it eventually ended up in the United States Supreme Court. In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, the Supreme Court upheld the requirement by a 6-3 decision thus paving the way for other states to enact such laws (Vock and Gramlich). What is so controversial about these laws that a Supreme Court decision was required? As with most contentious issues in politics, the debate over these laws are strictly divided down partisan lines with Democrats strongly opposed and Republicans heavily in favor of their implementation. Opponents believe these laws are unfair and negatively impact certain segments of voters who may not possess or have the means to obtain the required identification such as the poor, elderly, disabled, and minorities. As this category of voters is more likely to vote Democratic in an election, Democrats feel Republicans are purposively trying to suppress the vote of these individuals (Gerken 39). Republican proponents claim that voter identification laws do not discourage those who are most likely to vote from turning out to the polls. They also believe voter identification laws are vitally essential to discourage voter fraud and to strengthen public trust in the electoral system (Gerken 40). Looking closer at both sides of this continuing controversy will help to clarify each sides claims and reveal any misinformation.
Democrats, who almost unanimously oppose voter identification laws, strongly feel that minority groups of voters, who tend to vote Democratic, are more likely to not have the resources, knowledge, or means to have or obtain the necessary identification requirements for the polls. In a research project developed by Matt A. Barreto, Stephen A. Nuño, and Gabriel R. Sanchez, testing was conducted to “determine the rates of access to valid photo identification among voters and non-voters in Indiana, with an eye towards specific demographic groups, such as the elderly and racial minorities” (Barreto, Nuño, and Sanchez 112). Indiana was selected because of its strict...

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