Thursday, May 15, 2014

Brandon Demyan: One photo, one vote: Alabama’s voter ID law

  The primary elections of June 3, 2014 could bring change for many of Alabama’s elected office holders. It will definitely bring a change in voter identification requirements. In previous elections, voters could simply provide a utility bill or a fishing license to vote. Alabama’s voter ID law, passed in 2011 and implemented for the first time with the upcoming primaries, will now require every voter to present a valid photo ID at the polls.

  If a voter does not have one of the acceptable forms of photo ID, which range from a driver’s license to a state-issued college ID or any federally-issued ID, the State will provide one free of charge at any Board of Registrars office, Department of Public Safety office or through one of the Secretary of State’s traveling vans. A voter may still cast a provisional ballot until the Friday after the election if they lack photo ID. As another alternative, two election officials can sign affidavits attesting to the voter’s identity, allowing their vote to be counted.

  U.S. Vice President Joe Biden believes that voter ID laws are grounded in "hatred." Unfortunately for him, that inflammatory rhetoric is not backed up by the facts. A 2012 Pew study found that nearly 24 million voter registrations were invalid, or about 1 in every 8 total registrations. Of course, many of those are simply registrations from people who have moved or students away at school that local registrar offices have yet to clean up. Nonetheless, about 1.8 million deceased individuals were still on the rolls and another 2.75 million were registered in multiple states as of 2012.

  A review of voting records in the 2012 presidential election found that 35,570 North Carolina voters had the first and last names and dates of birth of voters who cast votes in other states. More states have found similar matches. Everyone is supposedly equal at the ballot box, but in a political era with razor thin margins, fraudulent activity can potentially skew an election. The burden for the few thousand of Alabamians without photo ID, especially in light of the massive publicity push the Secretary of State’s office is mounting to inform the public, is incredibly small against the backdrop of ensuring public faith in the democratic process.

  Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a liberal stalwart, understood the necessity of protecting the integrity of our elections when he voted to uphold Indiana’s voter ID law in 2009. Justice Stevens wrote that the slight burden on those without one of a wide range of acceptable IDs did not outweigh the "neutral and nondiscriminatory" interests by the state in preventing voter fraud.

  This is not a Republican versus Democrat partisan issue and Americans shouldn’t allow it to be made into one either. Polls show strong support across the political spectrum. It hasn’t originated solely in red states in the Deep South — reliably blue states like Rhode Island and Michigan have passed and implemented voter ID laws. A 2013 Marist Poll found that 84% of registered voters supported a requirement to show ID in order to vote.

  The right to vote is sacred, and must be jealously guarded. Presenting a photo ID when you vote is a modest request, but it is worth the knowledge that our elections will move one step closer to being true and accurate representations of the people.

  About the author: Brandon Demyan is policy counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute (API). API is an independent non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families. If you would like to speak with the author, please call (205) 870-9900 or email him at brandond[at] Follow Brandon Demyan on Twitter: @BJDemyan.

  This article was published by the Alabama Policy Institute.

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