Admittedly, voter fraud is not the biggest issue confronting the U.S. electoral process. Citizens should worry much more about the influence of money in politics - especially anonymous donations - than mischief at the polls.
Even so, it is not too much to expect people to show a reasonable form of identification when they exercise their right to vote. Legislation being discussed in Iowa and Wisconsin this year would do just that.
Opponents raise the specter of voter disenfranchisement. Elderly people, women who have changed their names, college students and minorities are the supposed victims of laws requiring voters to show a current government-issued ID.
Paying a fee to acquiring such an ID amounts to a poll tax, opponents say. How much weight that argument carries is a matter of partisan opinion. But let's say a fee-for-ID is an illegal poll tax. The Iowa secretary of state says anyone needing an ID to vote would receive one at no charge. Further, the Iowa bill permits one person with valid photo ID to attest for another voter who does not. Now, how is that being unreasonable?
Opponents also like to point out that fraud isn't as rampant as some supporters of ID laws would have you believe. That's true. Today's front-page report talks with local elections officials who will confirm that this area has not had many incidents of voter fraud. At least not that we know of.
Does it seem like a stretch to anyone that voter fraud could happen if people aren't required to prove that they are who they say they are? Why wouldn't we want to protect against that?
We show identification before we board a plane, every time we write a check and oftentimes when we enter a federal government building. Americans manage to come up with identification when they want to purchase alcohol or tobacco or get into a nightclub. It is a fact of modern life. That we require the same proof of identification for voting that we do for cashing a check just isn't unfairly burdensome.
The issue boils down to politics. In general, Republicans want voter ID and Democrats do not. There's little evidence that voter fraud needs to be stamped out by ID enforcement. But there's also little evidence that requiring IDs would suppress the vote. A campaign of education and information explaining how voters can attain proper identification must be part of the process, should voter ID laws go into effect. But in today's culture, showing an ID at the voting booth seems like a natural step in the evolving process.
- Telegraph Herald, April 29