Voter Fraud Legislation: How Misguided Good Breeds Bad Democracy
By Crispinus LeePublished November 11, 2015By Crispinus Lee 11/11/2015
The low voter turnout rate in the United States has always been an inconvenient fact to an otherwise democratic state. This has been attributed to a number of factors in the United States such as poverty and disillusionment with the Federal election system. However, there has been a major portion of U.S. legislation that has thoroughly inhibited specific demographics from being adequately representation across several states.
Voter fraud has been in the mind of several legislators. The thought of having thousands of false votes be represented in any government body in the United States convinced many to adopt voter ID laws in order to prevent anyone who is not registered or is not legally allowed to vote in the United States from doing so. In the majority of the United States, voter ID legislation is now in force, though to varying degrees. In areas of loose enforcement, voter ID requisites can be surpassed by other means. For example, Utah allows its county clerk to verify identity through means other than the prospective voter producing a valid ID. Slightly more stringent laws can include reciting date of birth and address such as in Hawaii. The most extreme cases have prospective voters submit a vote and return within days to produce a valid ID that include photos of the individual. Such is the case with Tennessee, Virginia, and Mississippi.
In practice, producing a valid ID should not be a major problem. After all, documents that are considered valid IDs are rather easy to access by most Americans. In Texas, one of the states with the more stringent set of laws, passports, gun carrying licenses and driver's licenses issued by the state are considered valid forms of IDs.
The practice seems sound, but comes into suspicion when one takes into account the massive voter deficit that some state elections have faced. IDs that are used in a state or are not universally owned in the United States. The last gubernatorial elections of Texas, in 2014, saw one of the lowest voter turnouts in the history of the United States. With a mere 33% of the voters turning out, it is clear that the Texan elections did not encompass all of the views of its electorate. The resulting election was one of the most undemocratic elections observed in U.S. history, with sources indicating that as many as 600,000 to 1.4 million citizens of the state of Texas were not able to vote due to being turned away from the polls.
The stakes of repealing such laws are nowhere near as severe as some may think. Though voting fraud is indeed something of concern that can breach democratic integrity, recent reports on voter fraud prove that this fear may be misplaced at best. The number of fraudulent cases in voting prior to the voter ID laws being activated, in 2002 to 2005, 40 cases of voting fraud were recorded against the 197 million votes casted in total. In the meantime, the number of Americans who do not possess photo IDs number around 3.2 million. Many of these Americans who have been deprived from voting are actually citizens who have not needed drivers licenses or IDs in the past and have not found the need or means to obtain what is needed for voting. The demographic study found that many who cannot vote are indeed those people who have historically been relatively disenfranchised: elderly, minorities, the poor etc.
The prospect of protecting against a political danger perpetrated by a mere 40 in the span of 3 years by preventing almost 1% of a country to vote seems to be a hypocritical claim at best. The disenfranchisement that arose from this perceived fear is a grave insult to American democracy and values, which continue to plague our society today. It feeds into the continuous stream of taking away the voices of those who are the most in need for them.