Myths behind voter ID laws

Posted on Monday, 31st December 2012 @ 07:31 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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There is a great deal of misinformation surrounding the recent Pennsylvania voter ID law. For those who do not know, the PA law is one in a string of partisan bills passed by many state legislatures requiring that anyone who votes must provide photo identification. The Laws were passed under the guise of “protecting the vote” by stopping in person voter fraud. Let’s examine some of the claims made around this law.Voter ID is necessary to stop in person voter fraud.

In person voter fraud exists when someone attempts to cast a ballot for someone else. This can be living or recently deceased, since voter registries typically take some time to update for all the deceased voters. By the way the legislature promotes this law it would be easy to believe that in person voter fraud is a massive problem.
In response to a civil rights challenge to the law the state signed a stipulation agreement stating there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”
At a Republican State Committee meeting, Pennsylvania House majority leader, Mike Turzai (R), was quoted as saying, “We are focused on making sure that we meet our obligations that we’ve talked about for years…….Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

“…voter fraud is easy to perpetrate, but exceptionally difficult to prove and prosecute” – Senator Rich Alloway (R)

This is a bit more of a subjective matter. The implication by statements like this are that it is nearly impossible to find out if in person voter fraud actually exists. This is patently false. Voting records are public information. While it is not record of which candidate a person votes for, if someone votes is. The fact is we have a great deal of information available that would provide insight to the actual existence, if any, of in person voter fraud.
The reality is in person voter fraud is a very uncommon problem. In a recent study of national elections, conducted by News21, found only 10 counts of voter impersonation. Roughly 600,000,0000 votes were cast during the time frame of this study. This is the only kind of voter fraud any voter ID law prevents.

Voter IDs are free, and only lazy people will not get them.

This is easily the most heinous of the statements made about voter ID laws. While the ID itself may be offered at no cost, this does not mean there is not a financial burden associated with obtaining proper identification. According to a report by the Brennan Center of Justice, proof of citizenship documents can cost over $300.
“…we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. If individuals are too lazy, the state can’t fix that.” – Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.
This statement shows the ethnocentric mentality that permeates the logic behind the proponents of the law used to justify it. If I do not have a problem getting an ID, no one else should either. Beyond the potential costs of the law, the ability to get to a photo identification center may create a significant burden. The distance to a photo center may require the use for transportation, and the individuals needing a photo ID by definition do not have drivers licenses.
There are over 470,000 eligible voters that do not have access to a vehicle, and live more than 10 miles from a photo ID center. Pennsylvania makes up the largest portion of this number. In Pennsylvania there are over 170,000 eligible voters who do not have access to a vehicle and live over 10 miles from a photo ID center. Barrack Obama won Pennsylvania by only a 310,000 vote margin.

Voter ID laws are conservative.

Fiscally conservative ideas are those that make the best use of government money. This is an area that has strikingly been left out of the voter ID debate. Lets examine the state costs for this law.
In Pennsylvania a photo ID normally carries a $13.50 fee. This fee is waived for those needing a voter ID. According to an official the PA Department of the state, the $13.50 fee covers only the costs associated with producing an ID. This means for every ID the state produces, and doesn’t charge the fee, the state loses $13.50.
An analysis of state records done by the Philadelphia Inquirer uncovered that 760,000 registered voters do not currently have the required photo ID and would be eligible for an “at no cost” ID. In other words, the state could pay for the production of over three quarters of a million IDs. The price tag for this equals $10,260,000.
To put this in perspective, this bill could cost more than is budgeted for: the state library system, Education for veteran’s children, Supplemental life insurance for veterans, National guard pension, Disabled veterans transportation, Veterans outreach, Breast cancer screening, Municipal police training, Higher education for the blind and deaf, Security and Emergency preparedness, and The Independent fiscal office, combined.

When the logic behind this law is examined, it begins to erode. Voting Is a fundamental right and should not be restricted. The legitimacy of the vote must be protected, but it should be done in the least burdensome manner. This law is not that. The fact is the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law with no justifiable problem with a potential cost of over $10 million. There is nothing conservative about that.

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