Voter identification laws could undo years of democratic progress

Noah Loewy, Staff Writer

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Ever since President Donald Trump accused the Clinton campaign of allowing “millions of illegal immigrants” to cast ballots in the 2016 general election, Republican lawmakers have been determined to come up with legislation to limit voter fraud.  One of their potential solutions is mandatory voter ID laws, which would require any voter to submit photo identification when voting.  However, voter ID laws are unnecessary and pose a threat to the nation’s democratic values, as they prevent many individuals from voting.  While studying the voting data from the 2016 election, David Cottrell, a lecturer with Dartmouth’s Program in Quantitative Social Science, found “no evidence of voter fraud whatsoever in the 2016 General Election.”

Supporters of ID laws tend to ignore the potential expenses associated with providing every United States citizen with an identification, as well as the potential ramifications of this legislation on minorities.  If voter fraud were truly a detrimental issue, heightened security would be a good idea rather than forcing individuals to purchase an ID.  

“By voting, the American people have an opportunity to make their voices heard, and have a say in how the government should function,” said freshman Shiv Chatrath.

Subsidizing every citizen with an ID is both impractical and cost prohibitive.  According to a Harvard Law report, “When aggregating the overall costs to individuals for ‘free’ IDs in all voter ID states, plus the costs to state government for providing ‘free’ IDs, the expenses can accumulate into the $10s of millions per state and into the $100s of millions nationwide.”

Considering voter fraud is practically nonexistent in the United States, why should we spend millions of dollars to prevent it, when our country is upwards of twenty trillion dollars in debt?

If the government were to require citizens to purchase IDs, certain minority groups would be negatively affected, as they would not be able to afford this added expense.  Many individuals lack the money to purchase these IDs and cannot take time away from working and taking care of their children.  The Harvard Report went on to say that, “the expenses for documentation, travel, and waiting time are significant—especially for minority group and low-income voters—typically ranging from about $75 to $175. When legal fees are added to these numbers, the costs range as high as $1,500.” 

“The fact that voter fraud has thought to become such a prevalent issue is absurd.  Despite cries of illegal votes from politicians, there are no substantial statistics that show that these incidents actually occur,” said senior Jared Levine.  “I’m amazed that the same people who are known for supporting limited government spending and lowering taxes would want to spend millions on distributing IDs to every citizen.”

Currently, more than half of all states have these laws in place, which are removing society’s most vulnerable from the ballot box.  In fact, an ACLU report found that, “ethnic minorities, along with low-income, disabled, and elderly voters, are less likely to have a government issued ID.”

“Voter identification laws are undoing decades of advancements in voting rights.  These laws affect low-income families, the elderly, and racial and ethnic minorities the most,” said freshman Zoe Hussain.  “It is ridiculous that people who have the constitutional right to vote are being deprived simply because of their economic status.  Their opinions matter just as much as anyone else’s.”

The fact of the matter is that voter fraud is not currently a major issue in the United States.  If the government desires to take preventative measures, mandatory IDs are simply not the answer.  It has been statistically proven that this system is not only extremely costly, but set-up to prevent some minorities from having their voices heard.  The trade-off just doesn’t seem to be worth it, as the many consequences clearly outweigh the few benefits of voter ID legislation. 

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