Voter ID laws distort the bigger picture
Our country has a lot of problems, but despite what Republicans have been saying, voter fraud isn’t one of them. And even if it were, that’s not what they’re worried about. What Republicans are actually worried about is losing. It used to be just a suspicion. Now it’s pretty clear.
Requiring voters to show photo identification sounds completely acceptable. It would appear that every American should have a state-issued photo ID, but for whatever reason, many don’t — 21 million, in fact. It’s important for everybody who is capable of obtaining a photo identification to do so, but sometimes it’s not that easy. For example, 81 out of 254 Texas counties don’t have public safety offices that allow citizens to obtain a government-issued photo identification. This makes it much harder for the elderly and poor minorities, who are statistically less likely to drive a vehicle, to make it to their closest DPS office.
It’s not required by law to carry a photo ID, and therefore, it shouldn’t be a law to show one in order to vote. Voting is one of our most basic rights, and we should be encouraging new people to vote, not discouraging the voters we already have.
It would be a different story if we had reason to believe that voting fraud was actually distorting our elections. A report released last year by the Republican National Lawyers Association showed there were 400 nationwide prosecutions of voter fraud between 2000 and 2010. No state had more than four convictions of voter fraud during the 10 years, and 30 states had less than three convictions. It’s hardly an urgent issue.
Why then are Republicans so adamant on tightening up voting laws? It seems, since there’s no serious voter fraud issue, that there has to be some other reason.
It turns out that many of those affected by the voter ID laws, specifically minorities and young students, tend to vote Democrat. This could be a big game changer come election time, and Republicans know it. In Pennsylvania, for instance, a major swing state, there are more than 750,000 registered voters that don’t have state-issued photo identification. A Pennsylvania win is vital to a victory for the Obama administration, and it’s more than likely that a large chunk of those 700,000-plus voters leaned left. However, unlike Texas’ proposed law, Pennsylvanian students are able to use their student IDs to vote, which will surely drop that number considerably. It’s also worth noting that there hasn’t been a Pennsylvania voter fraud conviction in the last five years.
But that’s all just speculation. Assuming that Republicans are conspiring to disenfranchise a major portion of America’s population is just as presumptuous as Republicans assuming that voter impersonators are infiltrating our voting system. At least, it would have been, if it weren’t for Pennsylvania House Republican Mike Turzai, who proudly — and perhaps too comfortably — claimed the voter ID law would “allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
It’s time that Republicans stop this horribly unconvincing illusion of being the “defender of the vote.” It’s common knowledge now that the truth is quite the opposite. It’s sad because that kind of desperation isn’t necessary. It’s clear now that Mitt Romney is not going to be the underdog everyone thought he was. Democrats have no reason to feel comfortable during this upcoming election so play fair, Republicans, and keep political agendas out of the legal system.
Lucas Sepulveda is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected]