There is much controversy regarding new voting laws established in several states that require citizens to show a valid form of photo identification in order for them to cast their ballots. To the best of my knowledge none of these states completely block those seeking to vote, who do not have the necessary credentials, these people can cast a provisional ballot which will be counted once these persons in question prove to an election official that they are who they say they are. There is a flaw with this system though, and that is that many, in fact most of those who cast these provisional ballots fail to show up later and clarify/prove who they are with the election officials; so those ballots get tossed in the garbage and do not get counted.
I just read an article entitled “Voter ID Laws Could Block Thousands From Voting” written by Associated Press reporter Mike Baker and it apparently refutes the argument that these laws are meant to discourage and reduce voter fraud. According to this article and the officials that are quoted in it, the amount of fraud committed by individuals showing up and trying to vote as someone who they aren’t is minute in comparison to the number of people whose otherwise legal votes would be blocked by these voter ID laws. The article opens with the heart wrenching story of an elderly couple who went to vote in the Republican Presidential Primaries in Indiana, a state that instituted voter ID laws, and how they had to cast a provisional ballot because neither of them had photo ID’s on them, and that they were unaware that Indiana had instituted this new law. Their provisional votes for Mitt Romney were never counted because they never cleared things up with a voting official. Tragic, isn’t it? As mentioned earlier most of those who fail to produce valid ID’s and cast their provisional ballots never return to ensure their votes get counted.
As you can tell by the level of cynicism and sarcasm that I am not exactly in the camp that thinks these laws are the evil incarnate that some believe they are. First of all there are the numbers cited as to how many people actually commit voter fraud. The numbers cited in this article are of those who have been arrested, meaning that the perpetrators were caught. So, how many people actually commit voter fraud we can’t specifically know because we don’t know how many people were not caught and thus got away with their crime. Now, I do not believe, nor am I implying that voter fraud is rampant in this country; I am just saying that basing the statistics on arrests is a flawed data set. Then there is the heartbreaking story of the elderly couple who didn’t know that Indiana had changed their voting laws. Umm, last I checked ignorance is no excuse, but to be less cynical and more caring the failure of people knowing the status of the voting laws in their state is a bit of a communication breakdown by those in charge of elections, at least in Indiana; but since I do not know what actions were taken in that state to inform voters of the new voting requirements I will refrain from laying too much of the blame at these officials’ feet. Finally, I cannot argue against those numbers that show that the vast majority of those who cast the provisional ballots, due to not having their ID’s, do not show up later to meet with an elections official, thus their votes will not be counted. The numbers I cannot argue against, but I will argue that this is not a failure in these voter ID laws; rather it is a failure in personal responsibility. Many want to make these people seem disenfranchised because they are being blocked from performing the most cherished civil duty a citizen can perform in a democracy – voting. Umm, has it occurred to anyone that these people have failed themselves because they (1) failed to prove who they say they are (2) they then failed to follow-up, as requested, with an official, to then ensure that their vote be counted. Unless I am mistaken these people failed themselves, not the law failing them.
Are these voter ID laws onerous? Perhaps, if you are one of those who forget their ID, or maybe doesn’t have one; however I have little doubt that many of these people could probably find a way to get a valid form of identification well before the November elections. Hell, if my state required photo ID I would drive people to the DMV myself and wait with them so they can get ID cards or driver’s licenses, and I am sure/I hope that there are people and organizations, in the states that do have voter ID laws, who offer a similar service. I do not think that simply proving you are who you say you are before voting, which is as stated earlier, is the most cherished act a person can do in a democracy, is asking too much. If voting is so sacred, then you would think that ID laws would be more prevalent than they are. Lastly, and I am being purely speculative here, but what if those vast majority of people who fail to confirm their provisional votes with an election official do so because they were committing voter fraud and do not want to get caught? Again, it is pure speculation, but I believe I have already shown that basing the percentage of actual voter fraud solely on the arrests of those who commit it is flawed, because it only counts those who got caught. Ultimately voting is a matter of responsibility, both personal and social. It is your personal responsibility to not only vote, but to be prepared to do so. It is your social responsibility to vote too, and be an active participant in our country’s democratic process, and to be appropriately prepared to do that also. This preparedness goes beyond simply having your ID on you, but also being informed too.