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Voter ID laws are unfair to the poor

August 27, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Voter ID laws seem to me like a good way to make it harder for the poor and disenfranchised to vote.

The issue is in the news since several states are moving towards more stringent requirements for people who are going to the polls. The Associated Press reports that a South Carolina law requiring photo ID at the polls is currently being challenged in court.

Some people may think it shouldn't be hard to produce a photo ID, but not everyone has an easy time getting one. When I was in college, I didn't have a driver's license or a car. The only photo ID I had was a food service card issued by the University of North Dakota, which wasn't acceptable. That presented a problem when local stores began requiring that people show a state-issued photo ID along with any checks they wrote. I arranged to get a special photo ID for non drivers from the State Highway Department but it was a bit of a nuisance. The department was on the other end of town, too far for me to walk. I had classes, so going to the department during normal business hours meant I had to miss classes to get the ID. I had to arrange for someone to give me a ride to and from the department, which meant that person's schedule was inconvenienced as well.

NPR had a story last week about a woman in Pennsylvania who has never had a driver's license and doesn't have a birth certificate either because she was born at home in Puerto Rico. NPR noted that this woman would be able to get ID under Pennsylvania's new voter ID law but it would require her to jump through some hoops. Someone who is homeless in Pennsylvania would have to bring a witness to the polls with him to swear to the fact that he is a habitual resident of the town or he would have to have someone sign an affidavit swearing to that fact. How many people are there living in tents or motor homes in North Dakota who are going to be in that position at the polls in November?

Proponents of voter ID laws claim it will cut down on voter fraud, but I don't think there's much evidence that voter fraud is a serious problem in this country. It bothers me greatly that so many locations are moving to tighten voting laws months before the Presidential election.

Voting is a right in this country and it should be as easy as possible for all Americans to vote.


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