After the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the formula in the Voting Rights Act, numerous states that had been under preclearance announced intentions to move forward with voter identification laws that would have been denied by the Justice Department. Among those states are Texas, North Carolina and Mississippi. The Justice Department, though, plans to sue North Carolina over its voter ID law.
Attorney General Eric Holder claims that such a law disproportionately impacts black voters, despite a decision by the Supreme Court concerning an Indiana voter ID law that determined voter ID laws are constitutional.
A common argument in favor of voter ID laws hinges on the necessity of photo identification in everyday life. Proponents point out that photo identification is needed for individuals to exercise such rights as purchasing a firearm, purchasing alcohol and applying for a permit to assemble. Further, photo identification is needed to board an airplane, cash a check, apply for and receive welfare, drive a car and register for voting.
An individual must present photo identification to register to vote. Thus, every individual that is registered to vote should be able to present photo identification when they go to the polls.
On the other hand, opponents to voter ID laws will claim that poor, rural individuals will find it difficult to obtain photo identification for reasons such as lack of reliable transportation, distance from a DMV office or inability to pay for necessary documents. Interestingly, these individuals do not have an issue getting to the polls. Additionally, if these individuals are on welfare, they must have a photo identification to receive benefits anyway.
Opponents argue that voting is a constitutionally granted right that cannot be violated by undue burdens such as voter identification. In the Indiana case, the Supreme Court decided that voter identification laws do not place an undue burden on the voter, but that does not get in the way of Holder’s agenda.
What the opposition seems to forget whenever that argument is made is that the following rights are granted within the Constitution: assembling, possessing a firearm, purchasing alcohol and paying taxes. Each of those rights requires the presentation of photo identification at some point in the process. However, Holder will surely avoid those issues when he argues that the right to vote cannot be burdened by such an obstructive hurdle.
Let’s put it all in perspective, though. The right to vote is pivotal to the United States’ democratic nature. Without a strong voting process, the republic essentially means nothing. For some, this means that access to the polls should be of utmost importance, even to the point that the window is open for fraud. Others, however, will want to take necessary measures to safeguard the process.
In today’s world, with technology making it all too easy for identities to be stolen, is it really so bizarre to think it could happen to the voting process?
Trenton Winford is a senior public policy leadership major from Madison.