Are voter ID laws good policy? Will the laws impact the general election in November?

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According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a total of 34 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. 33 of these voter identification laws are in force in 2016. West Virginia’s law, signed on April 1, 2016, goes into effect in 2018, missing the November general election.

In Pennsylvania, a law requiring voters to present photo identification was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett in March 2012. However, the PA Commonwealth Court held that the in-person proof of identification requirements were unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling on proof of identification applied only to identification requirements for voters who appear to vote at their polling place – the ruling left in effect previous rules regarding identification requirements for first-time voters at the polling place. If a voter is voting for the first time in an election district, the voter must show proof of identification, either photo or non-photo identification. Returning voters need not show any identification.

Nothing is more fundamental to American democracy than the right to vote. As the November general election nears, how much of a difference could voter ID laws make in the results across the country? I read recently that some are speculating that voter identification laws could be the next “hanging chads” in the upcoming election.

On the issue of voter identification, I received an editorial from Dr. George Anderson of Devon, titled “The Importance of Voter IDs”. (You may recall that Dr. Anderson was a TE School Board candidate in the last election cycle. However, he withdrew from the race citing the work demands of international travel during the campaign season.)

Dr. Anderson supports identification requirements for voters —

The Importance of Voter IDs

For a nation to exist there does not have to be agreement on every issue but there does need to be a generally accepted set of civic norms;  the processes by which things are done. The perceived validity of the decision making process is in fact, more important than individual decisions. That is why the myth of “Cultural Diversity” is so dangerous.

It is not the fact that the concept of “All Cultures are equal” is demonstrably nonsense. If the myth of cultural diversity is accepted, the societal common bonds start to disintegrate, ultimately leading to competition between groups, social and economic chaos.

For a Constitutional Republic to exist there needs to be a general acceptance of the importance of the Law, the process which creates and upholds the law. Without such acceptance and obedience to the Law, at best we are a tribal society with each tribe competing to enforce it’s will upon the others.

Since the disappointing loss suffered by the Democratic Party in the 2000 Presidential election the division between Americans has been growing. There were Democrats who claimed the election was invalid even though there were multiple counts of the same ballots by members of both parties and witnessed by a judge. (Disappointing yes but invalid, no.) There were Republicans who claimed the 2012 election was invalid, with counties reporting more votes than registered voters and precincts reporting 100% participation and 100% straight Democratic vote. (A statistical impossibility.)

What you see very much depends upon where you stand. Attempts to institute voter ID Laws have generally been denounced by those on the Left as an attempt to restrict voting.  Those on the Right respond it is true, limiting the vote to one each for US Citizens over 21 is appropriate. The tragic truth is, if we cannot agree that American Elections should be limited to one vote per mature citizen then the divide in this country is truly wide and the civic norms which tie us together have become very tenuous.

The terrifying prospect is the logical conclusion to such civic separation.

Sincerely;
George E. Anderson III, PhD

 

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27 Comments

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  1. 31. That is how many instances of credible allegations of voter impersonation – that’s credible ALLEGATIONS not convictions, prosecutions or proven instances, simply instances that could have been instances of voter impersonation. 31 in general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. Out of over a billion votes cast. Yup – THAT is a drastic issue that needs to be addressed with burdensome (well to those who do not own or car or cannot afford the cost or have changed their name through marriage and do not have ready proof of that etc, etc, etc. 31.

    Why? We can all grasp the concept of that sort of cheating. It is a simple concept. Fake who you are. And give me the politician or political body who latches onto voter impersonation as their ticket to win and I will show you a very likely loser in an election and a not very bright one at that. To try to affect the results of an election in such a burdensome incremental way that is wrought with risk for the voter impersonator – federal law has punishment of up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 fine. State laws are equally as punitive. In other words, the amount of exposure in such a voter impersonation scheme is very risky with a great deal of exposure needed in order to affect the results of an election.

    To be sure – election fraud occurs. But that is not what voter ID laws are aimed to prevent. Voter ID laws will not prevent absentee ballot fraud, voting from multiple addresses in multiple States, ballot box stuffing or electronic manipulation, vote buying, coercion, etc… No, it is aimed at voter impersonation.

    Yes – voter ID laws are wasteful and quite stupid. We have plenty of safeguards in place to address that. And for the fiscally conservative it is a huge waste of money. For example it cost over $20 million in North Carolina to educate voters and provide free IDs to those who did not have one. That is not to even address the cost to people who were forced to obtain proof of who they were through birth records etc. But hey! there is evidence that as many as 13 cases of voter impersonation have occurred over a 14 year period. So there’s that!

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  2. Interesting response by “John”. Ardently defending the ability to commit voter fraud by quoting unsubstantiated “facts”. (13 cases in 14 years)A simple Google of the term “voter fraud” will bring the reader to this article (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/minnesota-leads-the-nation-in-voter-fraud-convictions-131782928.html) In the state of Minnesota “113 individuals who voted illegally in the 2008 election have been convicted of the crime, “ineligible voter knowingly votes” under Minnesota Statute”

    Note 113 individuals, in one state, in one election cycle, convicted of voter fraud.

    Or this about voting in New York; (http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/286557/yes-virginia-there-really-voter-fraud-hans-von-spakovsky) “Fraud is so easy to commit in our election system that it is rare that fraudsters get caught and even rarer that they get prosecuted.”

    “John” is entitled to his opinion, he is not entitled to invent facts.

    Despite the generally acknowledged voter fraud in Chicago which elected John Kennedy, one could legitimately argue the extent of the current fraud may not be sufficient to sway an election. However, considering nebulous nature of the crime, it is hard to substantiate.

    I was attempting to address the perceived validity of the process not individual cases. The outcome of the election is less important than the validity of the process. It is in the best interests of all Americans to have confidence in the process. Voter IDs certainly would not stop all irregularities. (John does seem to know a lot about how to commit voter fraud, I had never considered.)But it is a low cost, easy way of increasing such confidence.

    It is in everyone’s personal interest that we are all confident in our institutions.

    Dr. Anderson

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    Doug Anestad Reply:

    The Minnesota 2008 113 individuals mentioned above were not voter fraud in the sense of pretending to be someone else. They were convicted felons who were ineligible to vote, but did so anyway. Voter ID would not have made a difference as they were who they said they were and they must have already been on the voting list to be given a ballot. They were not convicted of voting fraud, they were published in a list by a citizens group in a report.

    I don’t know how much person impersonation actually happens, but most of what I read seems to indicate that it is very low. Does it happen? I would assume so since there are 146 million registered voters and some percentage of people are always going to try everything under the sun as a general rule. However, I have never read any real evidence that it happens on any scale that would impact an election.

    There is an emotional appeal to requiring voter ID to make sure that the person is who they say they are. That appeal is completely understandable. The issue is that there are people who live without state approved ID. These are people who don’t drive and no longer have their birth certificate for whatever reason. As a general rule, it is good not to put up barriers for people to vote. Think poll taxes or literacy tests as barriers to voting.

    It is the contention between these two ideals that causes this issue. If you believe that it is more important to make sure that every vote is legitimate then you will be for the voter ID laws. If you believe that reducing barriers to voting is more important then you will be against the voter ID laws.

    I would just hope that both sides can see the other side’s point of view and recognize that both sides are interested in legitimate concerns.

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  3. Wow, what a strange editorial. I didn’t know that the Right also wanted to deny the right to vote for those between 18 and 21 years of age. Last I checked, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution permitted those citizens to vote. Oh, dear, did I commit voter fraud when I first voted at age 18? Also, I think I only showed my voter registration card (I was so proud of it). These new Voter ID laws you support don’t count it as an acceptable ID today.

    You prefer the new ID laws that accept Drivers Licenses and Gun Permits, which non-citizens and felons legally carry. Oh, right, many urban citizens don’t need or have Drivers Licenses so it’s okay to restrict their ability to vote. That’s what the politicians promoting these laws acknowledged.

    Interesting premise — I haven’t met anyone from the Left who supports more than one vote per citizen – only that all citizens are entitled to vote.

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  4. According to a new study from the University of Michigan, the percentage of 16- to 44-year-olds with driver’s licenses has decreased significantly in the past few decades. But it’s been particularly pronounced among the youngest part of that group. The percentages of 20- to 24-year-olds who had licenses “in 1983, 2008, 2011 and 2014 were 91.8%, 82%, 79.7%, and 76.7%, respectively.” Almost a quarter of young adults don’t even know how to drive.

    The attack on certain groups seems obvious. The student vote, the city vote (how many in NYC own a car?)the elderly vote and that pretty much covers it. The only group left standing will be the right wing R’s who want to rule the world.

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  5. One aspect of this string I find interesting is that two of us have had the personal integrity to use our names. While, Mr. Anestad and I do not agree on all issues, his response was reasoned and civil.

    The responses from those who object to the concept of one mature citizen per vote, make less reasoned statements from the simple, though wild assumption, of “stop pretending” to the paranoiac accusation of “Am I next”.

    I do find in especially entertaining when someone else tells me what I want/mean. The “You prefer…” of Tred Taxpayer. Framing someone’s thoughts by deliberately misrepresenting them is common in politics but it lacks intellectual honesty.

    Therefore, I challenge anyone to public debate on the given: “Voting in America should be restricted to one vote each by legal citizens of voting age, within the applicable jurisdiction.” The debate to be held on a convenient date at the Tredyffrin Library and moderated by Pattye Benson.

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    Stop pretending Reply:

    I find it especially entertaining when someone frames this as “one mature citizen per vote” expects readers to accept that definition, and then accuses others of “framing someone’s thoughts by deliberately misrepresenting them.”

    IMO, this is not “the concept of one mature citizen per vote” I believe you’re deliberately misrepresenting what it really is and that lacks intellectual honesty.

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  6. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is a federal law that was passed in 2002. Among other things, it requires a person who is voting for the first time in a new polling place to show one of the following forms of identification: (a) current and valid photo identification; (b) utility bill; (c) bank statement; (d) government check; (e) paycheck; or (f) other government document that shows the name and address of the voter. See HAVA Section 303(b).

    I am familiar with HAVA because, as Judge of Elections for Tredyffrin W-2, I am required to know and enforce the law. When a voter shows up to vote in our precinct for the first time, an “ID Required” notation appears in the poll book in the block where the voter must sign. This is how we know when to ask for identification.

    Because it is a federal law, HAVA applies everywhere in the United States. That means EVERY voter in the country must show one of the forms of identification listed above the first time he or she votes in a new precinct.

    The voter ID laws currently in the news are state laws that impose additional requirements, such as requiring voters to show identification at every election. Some of the state laws also remove certain forms of identification (such as utility bills) from the list of acceptable forms of ID.

    The only thing these state laws possibly could accomplish, then, is preventing a criminal from attempting to impersonate a voter who: (i) at some previous election provided one of the forms of identification required by HAVA, or (ii) has been voting at the precinct since before HAVA was passed in 2002.

    According to the research on the subject that I have read, this type of very specific voter impersonation fraud (the only type of fraud that the voter ID laws possibly could prevent) is exceptionally rare:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/

    So the voter ID laws, it seems, address a non-existent problem.

    If these state ID laws did not negatively impact any voters, this would be an academic discussion. But they do. They have the effect of disenfranchising voters who, for whatever reason (poor health, poverty, lack of documentation necessary to obtain the forms of identification deemed acceptable by the state) do not have and cannot readily obtain one of the state-required forms of identification.

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    Stop pretending Reply:

    Thank-you – JUDGE OF ELECTIONS Shapiro.

    So the voter ID laws, ADDRESS A NON-EXISTENT PROBLEM.

    Stop Pretending.

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  7. That is the article I referenced. I attempted to add the link twice to no avail – some glitch perhaps. IN addition, the other articles mentioned pointed to 2 examples of issues that would not be addressed by voter identification laws. The first related to fraud perpetrated by 2 elected officials faking absentee votes by registered voters. The second is related to convicted felons remaining on the voter logs and thus able to vote when State law prohibits that in MN. Again – not something prevented by voter ID laws. In addition to your statement, I’d point out that the 31 incidents were credible instances where voter impersonation MAY have been committed. I do not believe the author of the study actually took a step further to determine if voter impersonation was shown. The point remains – extremely rare and a non-issue. But, stating these facts makes you an ardent defender of voter fraud and not simply someone who points out actual facts.

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  8. disagree.. you want to vote, show your ID… Picture ID..
    when I go to vote, I don;t show id because I am a repeat offender voter… who is to say some one cant slip in sign my name and vote for me> do I have to rely on the volunteers to recognize me? just asking..

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  9. It is possible. First they would have to be motivated to vote. They’d have to have motivation and incentive to cast a vote in your name. They’d have to know your name and know that you have not voted nor were likely to vote. They’d have to be willing to risk up to a $10,000 fine and imprisonment in order to move someone’s vote count by 1 (not typically a game changer). They’d have to know that neither the people working the polls nor the people watching the polls do not know you by face and name. They would have to be able to make a reasonable facsimile of your signature.

    Many things are possible. Fewer things are probable and very few things that face numerous obstacles with very low reward and very high consequences are even remotely likely. And as stated and shown above a study of all US elections from 2000-2014 involving over 1 billion votes showed 31 credible potential cases of voter impersonation. Also, as stated above, review of costs for 1 State (NC) to implement voter ID laws was over $20 million dollars. Even if that was a 1 time cost and there were no additional costs, do you approve of spending money in that manner? I sure don’t and I think many people would agree given the hue and cry that occurs any time our Township raises taxes that may cost us a hundred or so dollars a year. If PA wants to spend an additional $20 million I think there are a whole hosts of expenditures I’d rather see than something that might prevent a single incident of voter impersonation every 33 million or so votes.

    You want better election integrity? How about a focus on preventing election fraud that can more easily occur? In places where there is no paper trail would adding that help prevent fraud (and or error)? Can improvements be made in voter registration that can more easily identify people who State law prohibits from voting where applicable. Or prevent people who move out of State or live full time elsewhere from being on 2 State voter rolls – there have been a number of cases (some prominent people) where a person votes in 2 different States. And at times this is done out of ignorance – people thinking that if they live in 1 State but own a home in another they can still vote in the 2nd State for local elections. Voter ID laws are a boondoggle and an unnecessary burden on the States fiscally and on individuals who may not have a drivers license or could afford to pay for the documents they’d need to obtain a “free” ID etc.

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  10. The simple truth is that voter ID laws would limit the ability of no one except ineligible voters. For support of this accusation, one only has to look at the adamance with which it is opposed by the left.

    Honest elections seem to be a threat to the perfection of America.

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    Stop pretending Reply:

    I’m not the left.

    Another deliberate assumption and misrepresentation of the facts, framing reader’s thoughts which lacks intellectual honesty.

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  11. While I do have concerns about reducing the public’s ability to vote, I also believe that such concerns are sometimes overstated.

    Both sides are worried about the integrity of elections, but from different angles. One side is worried that votes will be cast that are invalid and should not have been cast. The other side is worried that people who should be allowed to vote will not be able to.

    In our country, the Supreme Court is tasked in deciding whether a law has an undue burden on people. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that the Indiana law requiring voters to provide photo IDs did not violate the Constitution of the United States.

    It should be mentioned that at trial, the plaintiffs trying to overturn the law were unable to produce any witnesses who claimed that they were not able to meet the law’s requirements.

    That decision was 6-3 are therefore not a close split. Justice John Paul Stevens, who is considered to be on the liberal side, wrote the leading opinion.

    The Supreme Court as recently as March 2015 turned down a challenge to Wisconsin’s 2011 law requiring voters to present photo id.

    It should also be mentioned that it is does appear to be quite easy to commit voter fraud. While the attempt should have been better thought through, a group in New York City purposefully pretended in 63 polling places to be people who should have been turned away due to the real person being dead, moved out of town, or were currently in jail. In 61 of those 63 polling places, they were able to vote.

    While there are issues with how they implemented this experiment, it does show that it is easy to commit voter fraud and it is basically undetectable.

    It is very important that the population see elections as the free expression of the will of the people. It is only in this manner that people will see their representatives as actually representing the people.

    I find it disheartening that we as a society can’t seem to have an intelligent conversation on this topic. For instance, it is possible to reduce the barrier of IDs by having Pennsylvania not charge for their non-driving Identification Cards and have the expiration of such IDs be 10 years instead of the current 4 years. It should also be remembered that Pennsylvania has a provisional ballot system for those that who forgot their ID at home.

    I wish that we as a society would take a larger view of the integrity of elections going forward. Absentee ballots are gaining traction throughout the United States and create a much larger risk for fraud. Many electronic voting machines have been shown in the past to be easily hacked. This conversation can only happen if both sides step back from sound bites and work together.

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  12. Sound bites are all this deserves.

    Voter ID laws have all been sponsored by R.’s and passed by R legislatures.

    This is a fraud, imposed to discourage voting by those who vote against those imposing these laws.

    It deserves 0 conversation.

    So, please stop pretending, at the very least call it what it really is…………an attack on those who vote against those imposing it.

    This is RIDICULOUS

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  13. Interesting, with one exception, those who are generally inclined to support voter ID as a method of improving the reliability of our electoral system have used both their first and their last name. They have generally made argument with fact and logic.

    Those who oppose voter ID, for whatever reason, have simply used a first name or a pseudonym. In some cases, presented slogans as their argument. Interesting.

    I renew my challenge. Let, John, Am I Next or Stop Pretending come out from the shadows and meet me in open debate.

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  14. Anonymity is an important legal right that needs to be protected.

    The host of this blog moderates the comments posted on this website. I’m assuming to block comments that are uncivil, mean spirited, unproductive or toxic.

    If the comments are in line with civility, why is it necessary to attach a name with them? I can assure you, we don’t know each other.

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  15. I find it interesting that those with nothing to lose, who often hold all the power, are the ones to demand that posters identify themselves.

    Commenting anonymously protects people from retaliation from those in power who use retribution as a consequence for speaking publicly about matters of public interest.

    People who seek anonymity fear retribution.

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  16. well Shining, there are at least 2 sides to ever argument.. I too choose anonymity.
    as for voting laws, if you want to cheat, then there should be NO ID required.. If you want a reliable, or as reliable as possible system of accountability for voting, then you need an ID.
    Seems clear cut. And it should be easy for people to get a picture ID way in time for an election.

    My son is on the rolls from our home town but lives out of town… all an imposter needs to do is practice his signature and show up, sign in and vote… Doesnt seem right…

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    Shining Light Reply:

    It’s not easy for people to get I.D.’s in time for voting. It’s a catch 22. To get a birth certificate you need an I.D. To get an I.D., you need a B.C. This hurts many people, but mostly poor people, people who don’t drive, elderly women who changed their names after marrying so even if they have a B.C., it may not work because of the name change.

    There are many other reasons this is not a good idea.

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    Not so fast Reply:

    That is simply not true, You do not need any ID to get a birth certificate.

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    Shining Light Reply:

    Regardless of the state, applications for identification cards generally require a birth certificate and a Social Security card. If either has gone missing, you need to obtain a duplicate or what is called a certified copy.pply for a Certified Birth Certificate

    Apply through your birth state’s Vital Records Office. It MUST be your birth state. Even if you’ve lived in South Carolina since you were four years old, but were born in PA, you’d need to apply with PA Vital Records Office.

    Call the appropriate office for application assistance. In most instances you will need:

    Valid photo ID. (Oh irony, huh?)

    John Reply:

    Sure it would be relatively simple to do. Then all you would need to know is that your son would not be voting, that no one at the poll would recognize your son, be of the same sex and roughly the same age as your son etc etc. Now imagine the consequences of getting caught. 5 years prison $10,000 fine. So someone would then have to motivate the imposter to do all that work and to take all that risk. How much do you have to pay that imposter to do that? And then multiply that by the number of votes you would have to rig in this manner in order to truly sway and election. Heck if you get lucky some people may just do all that and risk all that for free. And as the manipulator, each person that you bring into your efforts is another chance that you’d get caught. As an investment of effort it is far too risk and far too costly to do that. And I think the facts bear that out. Numerous in depth studies of elections and very very few potential instances of voter impersonation. But do we have evidence of election fraud? Faking absentee ballots? Falsifying results? Sure do. None of these would be prevented by voter ID laws. And then there is the cost. Millions spent on preventing a low probability event. Many many more instances of outright fraud in sending literature to homes that mislead voters – giving wrong poll information, giving wrong dates for elections etc. Much cheaper to do, and easier to get away with.

    Even take the example that Doug brought up. What did the DOI learn – that there are problems with effectively managing voter rolls in NYC. What doesn’t it show – how easy it would be to pull off such fraud on a individual by individual basis. One would have to know 1. who recently deceased/moved away/absent voters are. 2. Know that these voters are still on the books. 3. Be reasonably sure that you were heading to a voting precinct that you could get away with it – remembering that it was not 100%. And if you would have to have 1,000 votes to sway an election – or heck 100, you would have to recruit these people, you would have to provide them with the information needed and you would have to hope that the ones that get caught do not spill the beans in an attempt to stay out of jail.

    The real issue is that we can imagine, as you do, someone forging a signature, going to a poll and pretending etc. But that is probably one of the least effective , most risky and most costly ways to cheat an election. And generally, I believe, people who do not possess the morals to follow the rules also do not go out of the way to pick the worst/most difficult way to go about it.

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    margaritiaville Reply:

    to continue with this thread… Chicago… NEw York… it doesnt have to be an imposter.. it can come from within… some crooked, bought off poll sitter can take the books, and just vote in all those who were absent but in the book… just because there is little data doesn’t mean this isn’t happening.. who collects the data? same corrupt people who vote the dead in….. I am not paranoid, I am not naive.. just been around long enough to realize I may be honest enough that I don’t even understand HOW the crooked mind works… and with the illegals getting to vote.. well look at Argentina under Peron.. Look at Venezuela NOW,, social lab experiement before our eyes…. Success!!!!!!!… we have been diminished.. let em all vote without going through the naturalization process.. there is a REASON legals feel like Americans and illegals have no idea about us…

    Now Im rambling but why do we give billions to countries like Mexico and why do their people still come here to take jobs and utilize social services we can’t afford…. ( veterans care example) I mean we are getting killed TWICE….oh well .. back to work.

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  17. I am also thinking that with the dissolution of our borders, to get even worse should Clinton be elected, there may be good reason to tighten our voter ID laws/regulations.
    But I agree that is folly.. why would a Democratic President, fully engaged to dissolve borders, blurring the lines of citizenship care about voter ID? Sure you can extend it to our government as a whole.. Libs, Dems, Conserv, Republics… there is no hope.

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