The battle between voter ID laws and voter fraud brings up one important issue: possible decreases in accessibility and election integrity.
Complaints from many link abysmal voter turnout to voter ID laws and decreases in accessibility.
Rep. John Lewis (Dem.-Ga.) said to USA Today that these laws were “robbing Americans of a basic constitutional right.”
Georgia joins eight other states in the strictest of voter ID laws, requiring voters to present government-issued ID to vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Peach State, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, led the way in stronger voter ID regulations, being among the first to enact it in 2006.
“The stricter laws tend to be enacted in states where you have conservative legislatures and conservative governors,” said Matthew Childers, a postdoctoral honors teaching fellow of political science at the University, to The Red & Black. “It’s really up to the politics of the state.”
Supporters of the legislation note the reduction in voter fraud cases, while those against them — such as Rep. Lewis — believe that it keeps away the poor, elderly and racial minorities.
“I can attest that every year we investigate and penalize hundreds of people guilty of election and voter fraud,” said Brian Kemp, Georgia secretary of state, to the Washington Post. PolitiFact, a fact-checking site for political news, found this true as at least 200 people were penalized in each of the last three years.
The crux of the argument against stronger voter ID laws is the lack of documentation. To obtain a driver’s license, voter ID or any other acceptable identification, a citizen must have access to a passport, naturalization papers or a birth certificate.
“The evidence is nuanced, and that’s why it’s difficult to answer,” Childers said. “Survey data does show that there is not really a difference among majority and minority populations, but people of lower incomes, in general, are affected by these laws and turnout will be lower among these groups.”
The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law released a study in 2006 that showed 7 percent of U.S. citizens do not have ready access to citizenship documents. The study also found 11 percent of citizens do not have government-issued IDs and 34 percent of voting-age women do not have documentation of a legal name after marriage.
Two states, Texas and Ohio, have both faced upheavals from federal courts on their voter ID laws in the past week. Texas’s measures were overturned, according to Attorney General Eric Holder’s pre-clearance statement, for “denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race,” while Ohio had its law for military personnel to vote early the weekend before the November elections struck down for discriminating against the poor and minorities. The court ruled those groups have historically taken advantage of this weekend.
Rep. Mike Turzai (Rep.-Pa.) received criticism for his statement that recently passed voter ID laws will “allow Gov. [Mitt] Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
South Carolina’s federal appeals trial testimony for its voter identification law wrapped up on Aug. 31, facing litigation from county elections directors in the state for discrimination against minorities.
Trey Hood, professor of political science at the University, testified on behalf of the state, saying it produces “no legally disparate impact on minority voters.”
Due to the trial’s ongoing nature to be settled on Sept. 24, Hood declined to comment to The Red & Black on the trial.