By: Helena Coric*
The recent emergence of voter identification laws across the country right before November elections is creating a stir. As the candidates discuss their sentiments on various policy issues on the national stage, the act of voting itself has come under fire. Before voting for the candidate that best represents one’s views on issues of the economy or healthcare, one must be able to vote at the polls.
In a nation, where less than 70 percent of the eligible voting population actually casted its ballot during the last presidential election, any further measure to impede voting is worrisome. People have various reasons for not voting such as belief that their vote does not count, not having the time, or simply apathy. So when an individual finally does surpass the obstacles and gains the courage to vote, any change in the legislation can send them back to square one. Such a change is the recent move across the nation for voter identification legislation which places additional requirements on the voter before the ballot may be cast. Such legislation comes with the objective of eradicating voter fraud. Some allege that this perceived voter fraud is nonexistent and therefore the additional identification requirements are complicating the process.
Virginia offers more flexibility by allowing a non-photo identification. So valid identification can be a utility bill, insurance payment, social security or driver’s license. Other states are much more stringent. The recent situation in Pennsylvaniais in comparison very stringent. It is believed to be enacting one of the strictest laws in the country. The only acceptable form of identification proposed was either a driver’s license or the Penn DOT ID or “non-driver” ID. Many are concerned that due to the complications surrounding acquiring such an ID card, some people may not be able to get all the paperwork accomplished before Election Day this November.
Although such laws are more likely to have been supported by Republican members, objections still exist from both party. The common outcry among Democrats is that such legislation is meant to disenfranchise minority voters, the poor, elderly and students; key Democratic voters. Yet, Republicans also worry about crucial constituents in their base such as the elderly which may also be impacted negatively by this law. The additional requirement of having to get voter identification that they otherwise would not have may discourage their efforts to vote. Particularly, these critical groups may not have the time and resources to allocate their time to go through the often tedious process of acquiring this identification. In Pennsylvaniafor example, people complained of long lines and complications at finally receiving their voter identification cards at the Pennsylvania Department of State.
The Brennan Center recently conducted a survey on Americans’ access to identification and discovered that 11 percent of United Statescitizens, which is more than 21 million individuals, do not possess government-issued photo identification. Here are some of the findings to see exactly which members of society are going to be potentially affected by these new measures:
• 18% of American citizens age 65 and above
• 25% of African-American voting-age citizens
• 16% of Hispanic voting-age citizens
• 15% of voting-age American citizens earning less than $35,000 per year
In addition to these statistics, 10% of voters with photo identification unfortunately have the incorrect legal name or address listed. It is evident that a substantial amount of people will be affected by such legislation, people that may have initially been cautious to cast their ballots. What remains to be seen is which candidate will be impacted negatively by this phenomenon. Whether or not this percentage of the population will even matter? Is it such a substantial concern that voter turn out will actually decline?
*Helena Coric is an intern at Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates, P.C.