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Oppose Restrictive ID Laws

Overview

Over the last ten years, states have passed dozens of laws requiring identification to vote.  The laws have been sold as a solution to voter fraud, but are truly designed for the simple purpose of suppressing the vote of groups less likely to have, or able to obtain the required ID — the poor, disabled, elderly, and racial and ethnic minorities.  And they have been designed in most instances not to apply to absentee balloting, where the small amount of election fraud that does occur is more likely to be perpetrated.  The starkly partisan purpose of these laws is made clear by the fact that they have been passed with party line votes everywhere they have been enacted. 

The vanguard of voter identification laws are requirements to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, and in some instances every time you vote. Seizing on fears of illegal immigration, conservative lawmakers are claiming that citizens are having their votes diluted by non-citizens. As with other voter ID requirements, the burdens of these laws are real and fall disproportionately on poor, disabled, elderly, and minority voters. Providing proof of citizenship is more onerous than even obtaining a photo ID. And as with fears of voter fraud generally, there is no evidence that non-citizens vote in significant numbers.

Now that the Supreme Court has countenanced voter ID laws, we are seeing a big surge in attempts to implement disenfranchising election rules.  Progressive lawmakers can respond to these renewed efforts by educating their colleagues and constituents about how these laws are merely a ploy to keep minority, poor, and less—educated voters from participating in elections, and the fact that the crisis these bills are supposed to solve —in-person voter fraud — is not a problem anywhere in the country. 

More proactively, legislators and advocates can change the nature of the debate by simultaneously debunking the voter fraud myths used to advance voter ID laws, and putting forward strong measures that combat the real threats to our elections and voting rights — efforts to suppress the vote such as voter intimidation and convoluted registration requirements.  When ID laws are proposed, voter protection and well-reasoned election integrity amendments should be offered as alternatives.  

Election day registration (EDR) is another amendment progressives can offer to counter voter ID legislation.If ID is to be required for voting, then progressives should at least try to expand the pool of potential voters.EDR extends the vote to citizens who have missed the voter registration deadline and would otherwise be unable to cast a ballot.  Unlike voter fraud, voter suppression activities — intimidating voters, spreading misinformation to prevent people from voting, and challenging the eligibility of groups of voters (called "voter caging") — are real practices that occur throughout the country.  Voter ID laws themselves open up new doors for voter intimidation and misinformation as ill-trained poll workers ask for ID that isn't required and partisans lie to voters about ID requirements in an attempt to discourage voting.  

Progressive States Network — The New Voter Suppression and the Progressive Response
Progressive States Network — The Specter of Fraud Helps the Right Wing Shape the Electorate
Brennan Center for Justice — Voter ID
Brennan Center for Justice — Policy Brief on Alternatives to Voter ID
Demos — Challenges to Fair Elections — Voter ID
NCSL — Requirements for Voter Identification
Cal Tech/MIT Voting Technology Project — Research Materials on Voter Identification
National Network for State Election Reform - Voter ID Factsheet