Editorial: Challenging voter-ID laws


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Laws mandating forms of identification in order to vote have been consistently ruled constitutional despite the potential implicit consequences for citizens likely to have problems acquiring the necessary forms of identification.

The Supreme Court has just rejected an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge Wisconsin’s law mandating photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Voters would be required to have “Wisconsin driver’s license, a passport, a military ID or an ID from a Wisconsin college or university” to present when attempting to vote.

The motivations for these laws have usually stemmed from fear of rampant voter fraud and are backed by predominantly Republican interest. However, Democratic contingents point to more underhanded motivations for the implementation of these laws such as preventing minorities and the poor from voting using de jure loopholes to keep potential Democratic voters out of the voting booth.

An investigation conducted over two years and released in May 2014 by then-Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz found only 134 possible instances of “election misconduct” in the state that resulted in illegitimate votes. When one compares this with the nearly 1.6 million votes that were cast in the 2012 general election, it’s clear voter ID is a solution without a problem, at least in Iowa.

While these sorts of laws may prevent what voter fraud exists, they also carry the potential to keep away citizens likely to have difficulty obtaining valid forms of photo identification, and those just happen to be target voters of the Democratic Party. Because of the propensity this practice has for inciting discriminatory practice, the issue of voter identification has become one in the wheelhouse of the ACLU.

Voter identification laws serve a legitimate purpose on paper, but the real-world implications carry the potential for misuse and exclusion. The right to vote should not be used as a political weapon to disfranchise potential voters aligning with either party. It is a universal right, not one that should be exploited or perverted to further political agendas.

As of now we are toeing a thin line that, without proper adherence, threatens to send our voting patterns tumbling back into the age of poll taxes and literacy tests. More than anything, the American people cannot allow the strategic use of rhetoric and scare tactics to allow their fundamental rights to be stripped away. The highest forms of bureaucracy cannot be relied upon to single-handedly protect the population from political agendas that aim to undermine those who do not benefit said agendas.

The issue of voter ID laws is not an issue that rests solely with lawmakers and advocates. This is an issue that affects all voters whether they are personally affected by the changes in voter-ID laws or not. The protection of civil liberties cannot rest solely in the hands of bureaucracy and those who would benefit most from misconstruing the rules and regulations that dictate our rights.

While our government is designed to serve our interests first and foremost, the prevalence of partisan disagreement and differing ideologies have served to skew the motivations of our elected officials. Public opinion and the resulting policy cannot be determined in its entirety by conflicting messages put out to further partisan ideological agendas.

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