An Overview of Voter I’d Laws in the United States

The right to vote is an all too important patriotic duty that has been granted to the American people by the United States Constitution. The old adage that elections have consequences rings ever so true as the votes casted on Election Day could literally be the difference between war and peace. Because of its importance, the act of voting must be secure as well as accessible for all qualified American voters.

New Photo Voter ID laws were a very important topic during the 2012 election season and drew its sharpest contrasts along party lines. From the left the attempt to enact new and stricter voter id laws were seen as a strategy by the right to disenfranchise voters. On the right, the new strict voter id laws was seen as necessity in order to increase the security associated with voting at the polls.

Undoubtedly there are valid arguments from both sides of the political divide, however if implemented correctly, and with the least of those able to obtain them in mind, requiring and implementing new voter photo id laws could very well be used as an  added layer of security towards protecting the voting process.

Political Argument from the Left

The major argument from Democrats and left leaning politicians is that implementing strict voter id laws could purposely disenfranchise millions of democratic leaning voters who either lack the required id’s or lack the means by which to obtain such id’s. This argument is further validated when the Republican Majority Leader of Pennsylvania Mike Turzai  publically admitted that implementing their new voter ID law will allow Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney to win that state. Such statements question the motive behind pushing new voter id legislation.

Political Argument from the right

Reducing voter fraud is the main reason politicians from the right are pushing new legislation on voter ids. Any type of voter fraud violates what the Constitution intended for elections in the United States. If all intentions from supporters of new voter id laws are directed towards enhancing voter security then as a nation the United States would benefit.  

Current and Future Voter ID Laws

Voter ID laws vary by state, which is why it’s important for all voters to be fully educated on the voting requirements for their respective states well before Election Day.  Not all voter identification requires a photo id, although the more strict laws do. Several states attempted to enact strict voter id requirements just before the 2012 Presidential Election but were either blocked all together or postponed until in 2014 or later. Although the particulars of voter requirements vary state by state, for the most part they can all be classified into four different categories.

Strict Photo ID Requirements

States with strict photo id requirements like the state of Georgia  require a photo id when casting a ballot.  There are no exceptions to this requirement. A provisional ballot can be cast for voters who fail to show a valid photo id while casting a ballot; however the voter must return within a few days with a valid photo id in order to have their ballot counted. Currently only 9 states have strict voter id requirements in place, or will have them by 2014.

Less Strict Photo ID Requirements

States with less strict photo id requirements like that of Idaho voters can complete an affidavit after in which the voter must sign it in order to validate the information they’ve provided. False information under these circumstances could result in a felony charge.

Strict Non Photo Id Requirements

In certain states like Virginia a photo id is not required. In the event that a voter is unable to provide a valid photo id, then they must provide an acceptable alternate form of identification. The requirements once again vary by state, but typically must be a government issued form of identification like a social security card, voter registration card or even a utility bill in certain states.

Non Strict No Photo ID Requirements

None strict none photo id requirements are perhaps the least strict as they only require one form of identification issued by the government with or without a photo. For example, voters in the state of Connecticut can cast a ballot by providing a social security card or other forms that contains the voter address, and signature.

No Voter Id Laws in affect

There are also states that have no voter id laws in affect like California, although voters are still required to be prepared to provide a valid form of ID in order to cast a ballot. The National Conference of State Legislatures website  provides details on each state’s current voter id laws including states that have new laws in place that have yet to be enacted.

Currently very few states have voter id laws that strictly require a photo id, something that could potentially change in the near future. American voters have a responsibility right now to either ensure that they have the proper id’s or to obtain them before the next election cycle.

The government should provide as much information as possible to voters in order to educate them on the requirements and reasoning behind voter ids. The government should also be prepared to assist those that are less fortunate and require assistance in obtaining these ids. Voter ID laws can benefit America, just as long as these laws are legitimate protections against fraud, and accessible to all voters.