Photo ID for Voting: Required or not?

Through Charlie Savage’s article, Justice Department Blocks Texas on Photo ID for Voting, he is in favor of the decision to block Texas from implementing a photo ID law that would have required voters to show photo identification at the polls. Savage begins by sharing the decision Thomas E. Perez wrote to the Texas state government stating that they, “failed to meet its requirements, under the Voting Rights Act, to show that the measure would not disproportionately disenfranchise registered minority voters” followed by statistical information regarding the decision. The article continues by presenting information from the Voting Rights Act in addition to arguments from Texas officials that “they would take sufficient steps to mitigate any impact of the law”. Savage wrote the article this way so that he could provide a counter-argument from critics that voting identification “suppress[es] turnout by legitimate voters who tend to vote for Democrats, including students, the indigent and minorities”. He is wrong in supporting the argument that voter identification deters voters and that it is discriminatory towards specific groups. Voter identification acts reduce voter fraud, are not targeted to deter certain demographics from voting and they do not violate any constitutional laws.

Voter identification laws add an extra level of protection against voter fraud by matching ID cards to the registered voter’s documentation at polling locations. The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, wrote that, “state prosecutors had won about 50 convictions related to…election fraud” (Savage, 191). At first glance, voter fraud may seem to be a nonissue compared to the number of total voters, but because of the difficulty in catching voter fraud due to false identification it leaves polling stations not knowing if someone is committing fraud. A way that voter fraud can occur without an ID includes when someone from one state votes in multiple states. This can happen when the voter has property in more than one state and is able to register or vote from documentation as simple as showing proof of a utility bill. Voter identification cards or state issued IDs are only valid in a single state and states will not issue IDs to someone who already has one from another state adding a safeguard from double dipping voters.

Opposing parties of voter ID laws believe that the laws disenfranchise certain citizen’s rights in generating obstacles in order to vote. An analysis of potential discrimination from the Texas law showed “either 603,892 or 795,955 registered voters lacked a driver’s license or state-issued identification card” (Savage, 192). These numbers were further broken down to reveal that only between 4.3-4.9 percent of non-Hispanic voters did not have identification in contrast to 6.3-10.8 percent of Hispanic voters. Further, it has been argued that voter id laws deter Democratic party voters traditionally students, indigents, and minorities such as Hispanics.

While opposition to voter laws make strong arguments, the concept of identification should not be an immediate deterrent for citizens. Identification cards are used on a daily basis by citizens to complete a variety of tasks. Examples of requirements for identification include booking a hotel room, renting a car, signing rent on an apartment or closing on a house, signing up for a library card, boarding a commercial airplane, attending a University, and many more. Additionally, the state of Texas provided that in order to not disenfranchise citizens they would issue state identification cards for free to prevent the deterrent of cost for voters. For a college student from out-of-state, it can be easier to commit voter fraud than it is to complete the absentee voter process. From the perspective that id cards would deter students from voting, it is simply not true. Also, it is required that one must be 17 years old and 10 months to vote in Texas. Many people need to obtain identification already to show proof of age and adding a state registered card does not add restraints. Moving further, Texas Governor, Rick Perry, believes the decision to block Texas from implementing the Voter Identification Law is a “pervasive federal overreach” backing the idea that the law is necessary to help combat voter fraud. (Savage, 191).

To bring everything together, voter fraud may seem as though it is not a high priority; however, it is the protection of the American vote that secures the rights and liberties of citizen’s to voice who should represent them. Overall, the implementation of a voter identification law sets in place an additional safeguard from fraud and does not disenfranchise citizens the way opposition to the law believes. Texas allows citizens to get voter identification cards for free and does not see an issue with identification at the polls because of the substantial number of things an identification card is already required for. “In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that a similar Indiana law did violate the United States Constitution” and Texas is not intending to do anything different than Indiana or intentionally target specific demographics with their law. All in all, voter identification acts are not discriminatory in nature, are intended to reduce voter fraud and do not violate any constitutional laws.