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Republicans Push to Tighten Voting Rules

Across the country, Republicans are pushing laws that will make voting harder.

NYT (“Republican Legislators Push to Tighten Voting Rules“):

Less than 18 months before the next presidential election, Republican-controlled statehouses around the country are rewriting voting laws to require photo identification at the polls, reduce the number of days of early voting or tighten registration rules.

Republican legislators say the new rules, which have advanced in 13 states in the past two months, offer a practical way to weed out fraudulent votes and preserve the integrity of the ballot box. Democrats say the changes have little to do with fraud prevention and more to do with placing obstacles in the way of possible Democratic voters, including young people and minorities.

[...]

In 2008 Acorn, a group organizing minority and low-income communities, became a particular target, with Republicans asserting that Acorn was trying to steal the election with large voter-registration drives, some of which were found to be seriously flawed.

Democrats, who point to scant evidence of voter-impersonation fraud, say the unified Republican push for photo identification cards carries echoes of the Jim Crow laws — with their poll taxes and literacy tests — that inhibited black voters in the South from Reconstruction through the 1960s. Election experts say minorities, poor people and students — who tend to skew Democratic — are among those least likely to have valid driver’s licenses, the most prevalent form of identification. Older people, another group less likely to have licenses, are swing voters.

Republicans argue that the requirements are commonplace.

“If you have to show a picture ID to buy Sudafed, if you have to show a picture ID to get on an airplane, you should show a picture ID when you vote,” Gov. Nikki Haley said this month when she signed the bill into law in South Carolina, using a common refrain among Republicans.

[...]

Most of the measures would require people to show a form of official, valid identification to vote. While driver’s licenses are the most common form, voters can also request free photo IDs from the Department of Motor Vehicles or use a passport or military identification, among other things.

But Democrats say thousands of people in each state do not have these. The extra step, they add, will discourage some voters who will have to pay to retrieve documents, like birth certificates, for proof to obtain a free card. If voters do not have the proper identification on Election Day, they can cast provisional ballots in most states but must return several days later to a local board of elections office with an ID.

In theory, I’ve got little problem with requiring photo ID to vote. If nothing else, it increases public confidence in the legitimacy of our elections. But the fact of the matter is that there’s no evidence that we have a problem with election fraud of the sort that would be curtailed by photo ID and the requirement will have a disparate impact on the poor. The notion that a significant number of people are registering and voting in multiple locations and exposing themselves to criminal liability in order to sneak in an extra vote or two for their preferred candidate doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Voting in the United States is both too hard and too easy.  The fact that we hold elections on a Tuesday, when people have to go to work, rather than on a weekend like virtually everybody else on the planet, is just bizarre. And the requirement to register in advance is complicated and unnecessary. At the same time, the combination of easy absentee balloting and early voting–especially by mail–not only distorts election outcomes but provides an easy opportunity for fraud.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Stan25 says:

    They need to do away with the motor voter stuff too. That is a total sham.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    The ability to register at the DMV is fine by me; there’s no reason people should have to make a second trip during their workday. My problem is that non-citizens can get drivers licenses, so there needs to be a check in place.

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  3. Bob in Zion says:

    ID is required for so many daily actions anymore that the arguement that too
    many people don’t have them is almost laughable.

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  4. jwest says:

    Showing a valid ID to vote is the least we can do to bring confidence to the voting process.

    The problem of early and absentee voting is far worse. By allowing votes to be cast that are subject to influences outside of the privacy of the voting booth, it is inviting fraud. Voting should take effort so that it is done by people who take it as a civic duty, not a social activity.

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  5. george says:

    Voter ID is required to vote in Canada (which is hardly a bastion of right wing thought – even the ruling Conservative party is well to the left of the Democrats), and it causes no problems – it doesn’t disenfranchise anyone, nor is it seen as a hardship. I don’t see this as an issue at all.

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  6. Stan25 says:

    They also need to enforce the military vote or change it to where the ones that are serving overseas has a chance to have their voices heard. They are the ones that are making sure that the people living here can vote for the person of their choice.

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  7. Andy says:

    But the fact of the matter is that there’s no evidence that we have a problem with election fraud of the sort that would be curtailed by photo ID and the requirement will have a disparate impact on the poor.

    Where’ s the evidence that photo ID will have a disparate impact on the poor?

    And the requirement to register in advance is complicated and unnecessary.

    Hardly. Wasn’t ACORN caught trying to fraudulently file thousands of registrations. The registration requirement gives election officials time to weed out the ineligible voters.

    Instead of focusing on the unsubstantiated argument that photo ID is an insurmountable burden, maybe you should focus on getting Dems to count all those military ballots them seem quite willing to throw away.

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  8. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    These days, a photo id is a fact of life. You want to open a bank account, you need photo id. Try cashing a check without photo id and see what happens. Many merchants want photo id when you use a credit card to purchase goods. Hell, I’m nearly 60 and some merchants want a photo id for me to buy beer!!! Enter into just about any kind of a commercial contract and you need photo id.

    While voter fraud may or may not be a problem, I would venture to bet that it would be harder to find someone without a photo id than it would be to find cases of voter fraud.

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  9. PJ says:

    @Andy:

    Wasn’t ACORN caught trying to fraudulently file thousands of registrations.

    No, regarding ACORN, the fraud committed was people collecting registrations and adding false ones since they were paid for every registration they collected.
    ACORN had to, by law, file every registration they receive, even those they believe are fraudulent, since otherwise, someone could collect registrations and then throw away either those who registered as democrats or republicans.

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  10. Eric Florack says:

    Showing a valid ID to vote is the least we can do to bring confidence to the voting process.

    Agreed.
    What this comes down to isn’t an issue with citizens voting, but non-citizens. If the Mexicans pouring over our border just now were seen as likely to vote Republican, or (Gasp) even further to the right, the fence would 100 feet high with armed guards walking it.

    Wasn’t ACORN caught trying to fraudulently file thousands of registrations.

    Yes.

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  11. mattb says:

    Ok, so first, on the “you need picture ID to do everything including open an account” is true, and at the same time misses the fact that many poor, especially those in urban areas, do not have savings accounts (or bank accounts of any sort). Hence the popularity of check cashing outlets.

    Secondly, on the topic of *where* one can get a photo ID, the fact it’s hard tied to the DMV is a big issue here in the US. Not only because, as James mentions, it requires it typically requires one to leave work in order to get the ID, but also it may require a significant amount of travel to reach a DMV. For example, in my area the urban DMV was shut down, requiring people to travel to one of three suburban branches — to reach any of these from downtown requires at least one bus transfer and often multiple. Either way, it’s not particularly convenient to get to any of these when one does not own a car.

    Finally, a quick survey of most states non-driver ID programs also shows that you typically have to pay a fee to receive the card (note *recieve* as opposed to *replace* a lost or damaged card). If the purposes of acquiring that card is simply to vote, at what point does that becomes akin to a poll tax of sorts — having to pay for the item to allow ones self to vote.

    It seems to me that the only equitable way to do this, if one is serious about patching a security hole (and one that as James points out there is little evidence to suggest is a meaningful hole at all) it would seem to me that a national ID, which would be issued and renewed for free (replacements could be charged for), and acquired through post offices (which are still not perfect, but often are more local than DMVs) is the best way to go.

    But short of that, this sort of program in place is a cynical attempt to disenfranchise voters. And it’s pushed through under the elitest view that “if you don’t care enough to do X, Y, or Z — then you don’t *deserve* the right to vote.”

    Ironically, most of these same people would talk about other rights (especially those enshrined amendments 1-10) as “god given” and therefore should never be regulated (I’m looking at a lot of the rhetoric around #2 especially).

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  12. george says:

    But short of that, this sort of program in place is a cynical attempt to disenfranchise voters.

    Just about every western democracy requires showing ID to work – including ones that would be called socialist in American terms. It doesn’t disenfranchise anyone in any of these countries, and its hard to understand why it would in the US.

    For instance, I’m a dual Canadian/American citizen, and have been living for quite a few years in Canada, where photo ID is required to vote … and there’s no evidence at all that it disenfranchises the poor or anyone else here.

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  13. george says:

    I should add, its an absolute non-issue in Canada. Not even the poverty advocacy groups mention it …

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  14. Herb says:

    “the combination of easy absentee balloting and early voting–especially by mail”

    I don’t know…I’ve voted absentee and early the last few elections and I prefer it that way. In Colorado, you have to request an absentee ballot, which they mail to you. The process doesn’t seem any more vulnerable than any other method and it’s very convenient.

    I would much rather the confusing wording on the ballots become an issue. Last year I accidentally voted no against expanding marijuana dispensaries into my town when I fully intended to vote YES. All the double negatives confused me!

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  15. Mr. Prosser says:

    I believe the emphasis should be on the administration of the voting. Although I have confidence in my County Clerk and her honesty I certainly wonder about the Wisconsin clerk who “found” 7000 votes after a judicial race became too close for comfort. I like early voting and mail-in ballots because they are convenient and really open up the process to more people but that is where fraud must really be watched for.

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  16. Tano says:

    I’ve got little problem with requiring photo ID to vote. If nothing else, it increases public confidence in the legitimacy of our elections.

    But that assumes that the rule does not disenfranchise legitimate voters, for if it did, then the legitimacy of the election would certainly be undermined.

    But the fact of the matter is that… the requirement will have a disparate impact on the poor.

    Oh. Now you are confusing me…..

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  17. Ben says:

    I don’t think having to show ID is that large of a hurdle, but non-driving photo IDs are certainly not free in my state. Also, I really don’t get the problem with early voting, and I wish they had it in my state.

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  18. jwest says:

    I would be happy with Mattb’s procedure of having the post office issue a national photo ID free of charge to those who want it. See… bipartisanship works.

    On early and absentee voting, I trust Herb and want things to be convenient for him, but the trouble lies with Herb’s wife, elderly mother and adult son who moved back home. When their ballots come in the mail, I worry that Herb might want to help them out and save some time by filling out their paperwork for them. It would also bother me if Herb’s union representative asked him to bring his early voting ballot down the union hall, because they wanted to go over some things while making out the list of who’s eligible for overtime next year.

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  19. Tano says:

    It would also bother me if Herb’s boss asked him to bring his early voting ballot in to work, because they wanted to go over some things while making out the list of who’s eligible for a bonus and promotion this year.

    Far more likely, jwest…

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  20. jwest says:

    Tano,

    If you think that scenario is more likely, you and I share the same fears for different reasons. Just like the crazy idea of “Card Check” that the unions tried to push through, there is nothing worse than for any democratic action than removing the concept of a secure, secret ballot executed by someone who has the right to vote.

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  21. Herb says:

    When their ballots come in the mail, I worry that Herb might want to help them out and save some time by filling out their paperwork for them.

    Ah, but that’s assuming I can’t exercise my iron grip as Household Dictator at the actual ballot box and I assure you, that’s not a problem. My Mom, wife, and adult children always do what I say. Without fail or question.

    As for my union rep…..like most people, I don’t have one. 9 out of 10 Americans aren’t even represented by unions, and I would guess that 9 out of 10 union-members don’t have this problem.

    That’s not to say these problems don’t exist….it’s just that they’re statistically insignificant.

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  22. TG Chicago says:

    @jwest

    Showing a valid ID to vote is the least we can do to bring confidence to the voting process.

    Given the fact that there have been few if any recent problems around people casting fraudulent votes yet there have been numerous problems around tabulating votes, I think your concern is misplaced.

    @Stan25:

    They also need to enforce the military vote or change it to where the ones that are serving overseas has a chance to have their voices heard. They are the ones that are making sure that the people living here can vote for the person of their choice.

    So if the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Americans would no longer be able to vote?

    That said, of course members of the military should be able to vote. Andy claims that people want to stop them from voting, which is ridiculous.

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  23. Axel Edgren says:

    That’s one way for the government to beat voter fraud – it can perpetrate it itself.

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  24. mattb says:

    Jay Tea: Ok tht problem solved, onto debt. ;)

    George, in terms of Canadian ID, what’s the procedure for getting the ID? Is it also drivers license? Or is there another form of National (or provincial) ID to use?

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  25. george says:

    There are number of options. One is a gov’t supplied card with a photo (driver’s license, gov’t provided provincial ID card, some provincial health cards have photos etc). A second option is to have two pieces of original authorized ID without photo but with an address (some provinces driver’s licenses, health cards, birth certificate etc). A third is to have someone who has a card take an oath that you are in fact a citizen (people can only do this for one other person).

    Most people have the ID card, either via a driver’s license, a health card, or a provincial ID card. The Canadian health care system (which for all its faults I much prefer to the US system, though that’s a different subject) makes this pretty easy, as everyone has that card (and it costs you nothing).

    In the US the gov’t could simply provide a citizenship card to everyone, and problem solved. There’s no reason not to require proof of ID to vote; if the stumbling block is identification, then just issue ID.

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  26. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Photo ID requirements are nice, but truth be told an increase of the minimum voting age to 35 over the long term would solve pretty much all that ails America.

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  27. TG Chicago says:

    Photo ID requirements are nice, but truth be told an increase of the minimum voting age to 35 over the long term would solve pretty much all that ails America.

    Why not go all out and limit it to white male property owners?

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  28. Southern Hoosier says:

    mattb says: Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 10:25

    Ok, so first, on the “you need picture ID to do everything including open an account” is true, and at the same time misses the fact that many poor, especially those in urban areas, do not have savings accounts (or bank accounts of any sort). Hence the popularity of check cashing outlets.

    I’ve never been to a check cashing outlet. Don’t they require a photo ID or something?

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  29. Southern Hoosier says:

    Where in the Constitution, does it say that we have a right to vote?

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  30. wr says:

    Oh, the freedom loving righties. Now they’ve decided that the way to fix our great nation is to allow only those people of whom they approve to vote. Well, I guess that will keep any more of those uppity black guys out of power…

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  31. ratufa says:

    Where in the Constitution, does it say that we have a right to vote?

    Is that a troll?

    For example:

    The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

    and various other amendments which mention “the right to vote”.

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  32. Southern Hoosier says:

    AMENDMENT XXIV

    Passed by Congress August 27, 1962. Ratified January 23, 1964.

    Section 1.
    The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

    OK, so what gave us the right to vote before 1964?

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  33. Southern Hoosier says:

    wr says: Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 22:49

    Well, I guess that will keep any more of those uppity black guys out of power…

    More likely will keep those uppity felons, illegal immigrants and Democrats from voting more than once. Why else would the Democrats be so opposed to someone showing a photo ID.

    Now they’ve decided that the way to fix our great nation is to allow only those people of whom they approve to vote.

    Good point. All these blue states are not going issue photo IDs to Democrats , because the Republicans don’t approve of Democrats voting. LOL

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  34. ratufa says:

    OK, so what gave us the right to vote before 1964?

    Oh, if only there was a way to search for information on the internet!

    But, here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_rights_in_the_United_States

    And, of course, the right to vote is not absolute — the states get to make decisions about things like whether or not felons can vote, for example. Which is why much of this thread is about whether or not a photo id requirement effectively constitutes a poll tax (and which is why I quoted the 24th amendment in my previous post).

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  35. Southern Hoosier says:

    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    If voting was a privilege that was not to be abridged, why was it necessary to pass AMENDMENT XXIV in 1964? Why couldn’t the Federal Courts or the Supreme Court use the 14th Amendment to nullify Jim Crow laws and poll taxes, both of which infringed on the rights of American citizens?

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  36. Trumwill says:

    And, of course, the right to vote is not absolute — the states get to make decisions about things like whether or not felons can vote, for example. Which is why much of this thread is about whether or not a photo id requirement effectively constitutes a poll tax (and which is why I quoted the 24th amendment in my previous post).

    This is the guts of it for me. If you’re going to require a photo ID to vote, you should have to provide a photo ID free of charge. Other than that, though, I have no real objection. I do like the idea of offering it at a post office. Though can’t you already get a photo passport through a post office?

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