A License to Vote? GOP Lawmakers Push Voter IDs

Residents of Virginia and Arkansas may be getting carded at places other than nightclubs come 2014.

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Larry Downing / REUTERS

An early voter is seen at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax, Virginia.

Residents of Virginia and Arkansas may be getting carded at places other than nightclubs come 2014. Both states have passed stricter election laws that require voters to show approved photo ID before they can cast their ballots. On Monday, the Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature overrode a veto from Democratic governor Mike Beebe, who called the law “an expensive solution in search of a problem.” Republican governor Bob McDonnell signed Virginia’s bill into law on March 26.

Both laws are part of the “endless partisan cycle of fights over the election rules,” says Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California at Irvine. The classic conservative argument is that such laws are needed to combat voter fraud. The classic liberal retort is that voter fraud is a red herring and such laws are really attempts to suppress voters who lean Democratic—because voting blocs like the young, elderly and minorities disproportionately lack photo ID.

Hasen, author of The Voting Wars, says that voter fraud is a small problem but that impersonation voter fraud—the type such laws protect against—is “virtually non-existent.” A more powerful reason that Republicans and Democrats continually engage in these bouts over the rules, he says, is that both sides can use them to excite their bases: GOP supporters get riled up about the prospect of Democrats stealing elections and liberals get fired up about the prospect of Republicans trying to suppress them. Both new laws require the states provide free IDs to voters who lack them.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states currently ask voters to flash photo ID when they show up to the polls. (The NCSL does not yet count Arkansas or Virginia in that tally because the laws aren’t set to go into effect until 2014.) Of those, four are what they dub “strict,” meaning that if voters don’t show their photo ID on the day of the election, they have to take an additional step—like visiting an election official the next day with proper ID—for their vote to be counted. The “non-strict” states have easier recourse, says NCSL’s Jennie Bowser, meaning that a voter without photo ID might be able to have someone vouch for them on the spot or sign an affidavit swearing to their identity: no second trip required.

Virginia and other states like Texas that have already passed more restrictive voter ID laws have an extra hurdle to clear before the laws can go into effect. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is being reviewed and may be struck down by the Supreme Court, requires that states, counties and townships with a history of racial discrimination get approval from the Department of Justice before making changes to their voting laws. Hasen says “smart money” is on Section 5 soon being a thing of the past.

Bowser notes that, according to their tallies of bills and laws, more than 15 states could have stricter ID requirements heading into the 2016 elections—though changes in all those states are unlikely. Hasen predicts more states will be asking for photo ID when voters head out to choose the next President, but he says those measures won’t affect elections nearly as much as rules about voter registration or how well the polls are run. After the long lines that discouraged thousands of potential voters in 2012, Obama vowed to address the problems in his most recent State of the Union address. And to that end, he created a bipartisan commission on March 28 to study how to ease voter access.

23 comments
callmebc
callmebc

All Voter ID laws are driven by laughable ignorance and/or by now long time Republican attempts to disenfranchise minority groups and the poor, no exceptions. There isn't a single bit of real evidence to justify these laws -- the type of voter fraud that these laws are suppose to address is simply insignicant compared to even common clerical errors by election workers (that right wing myth of dead people voting turned out to be due to clerical errors as well.) Everything the modern GOP supports, actually, from Voter ID laws to Congressional investigations, seems to be based on ignorance and malicious politics. 

mrethiopian
mrethiopian

I see all kinds of comments saying that if you don't have an ID than your some kind of a scumbag? One set of people that don't carry a drivers license are old people living in assisted living, they don't drive so they don't have a drivers license, yet many of thees people paid taxes for 80 + years and fought in wars protecting America and now that they don't have a drivers license your calling them scumbags.

Personalty I think its backwards that you people are the scumbags that so easily forget about the people that ran, supported and financed  this country whilst you were in still your dippers.

You need to think past Democrat and Republican, this is your country and its time you acted like you actually cared about it, instead of being petty little bickering children that cant see beyond your on party's hate.             

disinterested3rdparty
disinterested3rdparty

Any slug that cant manage to produce some sort of ID doesnt deserve to cast a vote for direction of the nation anyway.

LogicalPosition
LogicalPosition

TSA is far more intrusive than your neighborhood polling facility asking for an ID as you vote.

kamanalonokapu
kamanalonokapu

Why not take the voters thumbprint and have the state check the print for accuracy?

arvay
arvay

Since we already live in a nation that's made a mockery of the concept of a "nation of laws" by wrist-slapping the vermin who crashed our economy, why not just drop the pretense of "one person, one vote" and admit that our "democratic" system is a rigged fraud? Seems to me gerrymandering already does that, this just adds a patina of racial  and class discrimination.  I wonder -- is it easier to vote in Iraq than in these vote-restricting states?

curt3rd
curt3rd

I dont see the problem with voter IDs.  No one has a problem with voter registration.  I have to show my ID for everything else I do in my life. You have to show for school, driving, work, everytime you use a credit card, library, post office, to buy alcohol or tobacco, recieve wellfare, EBT card, Section 8, Obama phone,  the list goes on and on

gysgt213
gysgt213

Because nothing says freedom like having to show your papers. 

notsacredh
notsacredh

Note to GOP: Die already. You're really starting to stink.

MrObvious
MrObvious

The funny part, for me anyways is that here we have two things so fundamentally part of our constitution. The right to vote and the right to own weapons. In one case GOPers claim that you need a 'license' to vote but in the other anyone, anywhere and without restrictions can own it.

The problem with GOP isn't so much the inconsistency in how they view our constitutional rights, but how little common sense and practice they put into it.

And when it lacks consistency it also reveals the true nature of GOPers agenda; a naked ploy to empower anyone that can make a profit and to de-power regular folks in a democratic process.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Thanks, Katy. The R's tribalism has infected our political system down to the state and local levels now with this, rigging the system instead of insisting on a fair and balanced means of voting for everyone. The R's wish to spend lots of money fighting nonexistent voter fraud ...and fight immigration instead of solving it, and pass unconstitutional anti-abortion laws then spend money fighting court challenges, etc.... a lot of money wasted in an age of austerity and sequestration that the R's themselves imposed on all of us. Way to go. Outsider is right; they are ruining this country.


outsider
outsider

Hasen, author of The Voting Wars, says that voter fraud is a small problem but that impersonation voter fraud—the type such laws protect against—is “virtually non-existent.”

And that is all that needs to be said. 

The GOP are ruining the county. It's kind of ironic; they railed and predicted American decline, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. 


But they cannot even see it.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

When one cannot persuade a majority one shrinks the number that need to be persuaded. 

bobell
bobell

The almost unique idiocy of Virginia's new law is highlighed by the fact that only a year or so ago Virginia sent photo-less voter IDs to all registered voters in the state, which most of us used in the 2012 election.   They weren't mandatory, and a lot of us used driving licenses, but they were one option.  Now they're worthless, and the money spent on them is wasted, and a boatload of taxpayer money will go to processing the new, free cards -- if the people who need them can manage to get to their DMV offices.

I still await evidence that voter-impersonation fraud has ever altered the result in a single election, just as I await laws forcing states to provide adequate voting facilities nationwide.

Smiling1809
Smiling1809

@curt3rd The problem is that there is no voter fraud. There is no reason to have a law preventing something that does not exist.

Chosun1
Chosun1

@MrObvious - It's not a "license", it is identification.  The rest of the world is mystified about how Americans don't have to prove who they are before they (1) register to vote or (2) cast a vote.  It is such a no-brainer that the Democratic argument sounds silly.  I "license" is a revocable form of permission -- no license is involved.  Just keep spouting your DNC talking points.  Blah, Blah, Blah!

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

As a side note, I give congrats to Katy for recent posts on topics beyond the usual Beltway talking points that we can watch every day on teevee: voter suppression, lack of decent terminology for illegal immigration (posted at newsfeed) + how to argue when the basic terms are in question?, gender-equal bathrooms. I had wanted her and other off-Beltway topic posts by her, JNS, and others to get more comments. Katy's last two posts have ...alas. Most comments have regressed into word salad with vitriol dressing. 

Example - see Katy's immigration terminology post vs. initial comments here. How in the hell can righties and overall PITA's whine and rant about immigration -  let alone leap ahead to paying for it, shipping off "those people" back over the fence (or turn into Soylent Green), etc. - without clearly defined terms and definitions? Definitions are the foundation of reason, and those commenters are not reasoning well, or at all. (Perfect example: the Palin protege who replied twice to me. What was he saying again?)

Chosun1
Chosun1

@bobell - Your argument that you are awaiting evidence that voter ID fraud ever altered an election is pure nonsense.  There is no way to verify that because secret ballots are cast in the United States.  This line of argumentation is typical DNC talking point nonsense.  There is no logic to the argument.  Try again.

Smiling1809
Smiling1809

@Chosun1 @MrObvious The rest of the world? Where is your source for that claim? I find it incredibly hard to believe that the rest of the world is aghast at our lack of voter I.D. laws with all that is going on in their own countries.

Smiling1809
Smiling1809

@Chosun1 @bobell It is completely logical. Voter fraud is made up. It's a red herring. We shouldn't be making laws to stop something that doesn't exist. The burden of proof lies on the accuser in the U.S. The time and energy spent on making these bills costs the taxpayers money. Talk about waste.