There are election reform ideas that sound good but in practice are actually intended to skew the electoral system toward one party or the other. One example is the imposition of a one man-one vote rule requiring state legislators to be elected based on population of legislative districts.
What could be fairer than equal representation? In reality, most states empower the majority party to draw lines on maps to determine which voters get to vote in that district. The result is gerrymandering. In Wyoming, the lines are drawn politically not democratically. The result is minority party candidates have an increasingly more difficult challenge on election-day.
Another one of those “it sure sounds good” reforms is voter ID. What could possibly be onerous about requiring a voter to show an id in order to vote? After all, proponents argue, if you have to have an ID to drive, requiring ID to vote is reasonable. Right? Wrong.
What you must have to drive is not so much an ID as it is a license. Driver’s licenses serve a couple of purposes. One, it proves you actually know how to drive a car and have learned the rules of the road. The other purpose is to raise money for state coffers through the fees generated by licensing.
Voter IDs are more like poll taxes. Their sole purpose is to deny the right to vote to someone lawmakers don’t want voting.
Ask yourself, “If voter ID is such a good idea, why is it that only those who have narrowly lost the last two presidential elections are feverously trying to get it passed?” It's no coincidence. Advocates of voter ID are Republicans. Demographics show they have the most to gain by limiting who can vote because those most affected detrimentally tend to vote Democratic.
Take Pennsylvania where the Republican majority passed voter ID after learning 758,000 registered voters didn't have the ID the GOP proposal required. The GOP leader of the legislature said the law guaranteed Mitt Romney would "win the election.”
There is little evidence of voter fraud but a lot of evidence of how voter ID supporters seek to impact elections. For many, government IDs are a part of life, but not for all. And Republicans know that the folks for whom these laws pose the highest barrier are the same folks for whom poll taxes imposed a burden in the 50s and 60s.
Wendy Weiser directs the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. She founded and directed the center's Voting Rights and Elections Project. Ms. Weiser found 11 percent of American citizens, about 21 million, do not possess the kind of government-issued photo identification many of these laws demand. African-American voters are the hardest hit. An estimated 25 percent of voting age African-American citizens, or 5.5 million voters, lack government-issued photo identification, as with 18 percent of elderly voters and 16% of Hispanics. Voters making less than $35,000 per year are twice as likely not to have those government-issued ID cards as those making more than $35,000. Fifteen percent of low earners and even more students lack such identification.
To compound the problem, many of the government-issued photo identification cards don’t have current or correct information. Accordingly, if voter rolls identify me as “Roger” McDaniel but my ID says I am “Rodger” McDaniel, I could be denied the right to vote. This is a particular problem among Americans who move their residences frequently or whose names change by marriage or divorce, adding 4.5 million more citizens to the list of disenfranchised voters.
Those who want to change election laws in a way that will potentially deny that many people their right to vote have the burden of proof. They should be required to prove more than they have the power to get it done. They should have to prove the threat of voter fraud is real and that laws disenfranchising minorities, the poor, senior citizens, students, and others, are necessary.