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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Keep it easy to vote

Thursday, February 16, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:54 a.m. CST, Friday, February 17, 2012

We have always known that some forms of voter fraud exist. We have heard about dead people and dogs voting. We wonder about rigged voting machines. So we nod in recognition and approval when we hear that 34 states have or are in the process of changing electoral laws to prevent fraud.

We are told that the integrity of our elections depends on requiring a government-issued photo ID as a prerequisite to voting at the polls. And we tell pollsters with little or no reservation that we support photo ID laws. We use photo IDs for everything in this country from boarding a plane to buying beer, so it is altogether natural that we should also use them to vote, right? Actually, it's not.

The first thing we need to understand is that having laws requiring a government-issued ID can only prevent in-person voter impersonation — when someone shows up at a particular precinct claiming to be someone else also registered in that same precinct. Studies show that this type of fraud is rare to non-existent. This may be because there are already very clear laws with very severe consequences for voting fraud in the books, as well there should be. Under federal law, voter impersonation is punishable by up to five years in prison and $10,000 fines.

Out of the 300 million votes cast between 2002 and 2007, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud, and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility or they involved registration errors. And in the state of Missouri, according to the Secretary of State Executive Summary of the 2008 Elections, "As in previous elections, no instances of voter impersonation fraud were reported to the Secretary of State's Office."

Of course we all want integrity in our elections, but if there is little to no reliable evidence of in-person impersonation fraud in the United States, what is the point of proposing a solution? To repeat, the only problem that a voter ID requirement could possibly fix has not been shown to exist. Why are state legislatures spending a lot of time, effort and money to enact photo ID laws, while decrying voter fraud and claiming that photo ID will protect the sanctity of the ballot from fraudulent voters?

Who is likely to be disenfranchised? Not most of us who have photo identification in the form of a valid driver's license. But some people are less likely to have a driver's license because they do not own a car. These include the poor, especially African American and Hispanic citizens in urban areas, the elderly whose licenses may have lapsed, people with disabilities and the young such as college students who have been able to vote with student IDs in the past and whose licenses may originate in the district where they grew up instead of where they attend school and are eligible to vote. Most of these groups tend to vote Democratic.

According to the Brennan Center, as many as one in 10 voters — 21 million Americans — do not have a government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license. In Missouri, it was estimated by the Secretary of State Office that there were some 250,000 registered voters who did not have a state-issued photo ID in 2010.

Certainly many of those would be able to acquire the necessary photo ID, but a conservative estimate is that at least 5 million eligible voters will find it significantly harder to cast ballots in 2012, a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections. The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012, 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

An alternative photo ID would qualify citizens without driver's licenses to vote. To avoid the charge that it would cost money to get an alternative ID, proponents of such laws have generally made free alternative photo IDs part of the legislative package.

However, voters would still need supporting documentation such as a certified birth certificate, a passport or naturalization papers to get that free photo ID from their state. Many people do not have such documents in their possession, and it will cost money and time to acquire such documentation. Most people will not start worrying about voting until it is too late to collect the necessary documents, certainly for the 2012 election.The complications of finding such documents and paying for them will discourage many others.

We can all agree that voting is fundamental to a functioning democracy. Do we really want to make it more difficult for Americans to vote when the United States continues to turn out less than two thirds of its eligible citizens in presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections? We should be making it as easy as possible to vote instead of placing barriers on the path to the voting booth. Government photo ID legislation is just such an obstacle.

Aline Kultgen and Linda Kaiser are co-chairs of the Civil Liberties Committee for the League of Women Voters for Columbia and Boone County.


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Comments

Ed Lane February 16, 2012 | 8:33 a.m.

I call bs on this one. What is so damn hard about obtaining or having some kind of ID?????? You have to have an ID for about everything in everyday living, i.e., check cashing, prescriptions, entry into federal, state, and county buildings, etc.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub February 16, 2012 | 9:00 a.m.

Mr. Lane, in China, Iran, and most oppressive societies you can and will be stopped at any time and required to produce your "papers". Is this the kind of society you are striving for? The constitution is very clear about the right of citizens to vote, yet a birth certificate is the only document that can prove that for naturalized citizens, and there is no photo on it. There, however, is no article, amendment or law that requires US citizens to carry a photo ID...yet.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 16, 2012 | 9:27 a.m.

GaryS says, "...in China, Iran, and most oppressive societies you can and will be stopped at any time and required to produce your "papers".
____________________

The difference is "being stopped" in those countries is without cause. You get stopped "just because".

In the US, you are asked periodically to show a photo ID. This is done when you cash a check, or drive carelessly, or many other things noted by Ed. For the life of me, I see no distinction whatsoever between these US societal requests for identification versus a request to identify your voting self.

I'm happy when any citizen of any persuasion gets into a voting booth, and while I care about the outcome of their vote, that care is outweighed by their right to make a mark the way they see fit.

But, I want to make sure they belong in that booth in the first place....citizenship-wise. For me, citizenship is THE only criteria needed to vote. Prove that first, then happily cast your vote...an effort that makes me happy, also.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub February 16, 2012 | 10:07 a.m.

A drivers license is not proof of citizenship. A drivers license is easy to forge, as any underage college student can tell you. You are right it is about being stopped, which was the purpose of my statement, we are not there yet but all things human have to have a start. The author clearly stated that there are very strict laws against voter fraud and that there have been very few cases in the entire united states. The statistics prove there is no problem so obviously there is an ulterior motive. Just because you and I have a drivers license, and a bank account does not mean that every body does, or should have to. I would be willing to bet that there is and will continue to be a multitude of voting errors caused by voting machines that will far surpass any ID fraud.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 16, 2012 | 11:11 a.m.

"The statistics prove there is no problem so obviously there is an ulterior motive."

Lowering voter age to 18, motor voter registration, ACORN registrars, the attempt to fill the country with new citizens with no checks on their benefit or danger to the country, only their ability to be led to the polls in time to presumably vote for Al Gore, can all be considered ulterior motives performed by the Democrat Congress' and candidates whom instituted them.

The Democrat intent has long been to provide anyone subject to the determination of an item on a ballot to be able to stop in and vote. Their view is that a collective consensus of opinion is far better than anything offered us by a representative republic. Those in power may more easily retain power, coincidentally, I'm sure.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 16, 2012 | 12:32 p.m.

frank christian wrote:

"Lowering voter age to 18, motor voter registration, ACORN registrars, the attempt to fill the country with new citizens with no checks on their benefit or danger to the country, only their ability to be led to the polls in time to presumably vote for Al Gore, can all be considered ulterior motives performed by the Democrat Congress' and candidates whom instituted them"

And how does requiring a photo ID to vote stop any of these purported abuses?

Come on. This is symbolic, useless legislation to address an absolute non-problem (voter fraud). It is being pushed so the proponents of the bill can say they're "doing something". It's a huge waste of time to even introduce it.

Our legislators have far more important things to worry about.

DK

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 16, 2012 | 1:51 p.m.

Apparently, Mark F does not refute my claim that the stated actions were taken with "ulterior motives" in mind, or the Democrat agenda for our elections system. Only that voter ID will not "stop" them. Interesting.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 16, 2012 | 2:10 p.m.

Let's do fingerprints.

Yea.........

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 16, 2012 | 2:10 p.m.

Everybody has a fingerprint.

And they're FREE!!!!!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 16, 2012 | 2:33 p.m.

So Frank, would you remove the vote for citizens under 21 years of age? Or ban people from soliciting voter registrations (I've seen groups that aren't ACORN-affiliated registering people)?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 16, 2012 | 3:26 p.m.

I believe that a photo ID should be presented to the poll worker before being allowed to enter the voting "booth."
Currently, very basic ID is required to "prove" identity.
Whether the amount of fraud currently exists is moot.
An acceptable photo ID policy, such as a state issued drivers license or non-drivers photo ID makes sense. Even if it's just a preventative measure or better attempt to affirm who is showing up to vote. Arguments that such a policy will make it difficult for seniors, the handicapped and poor to acquire an acceptable photo ID can be remedied by having nonprofits who currently provide services to seniors, the handicapped and the poor to assist these individuals in getting a photo ID. (Just like these agencies currently do for those who get help for photo ID's now.)
I believe that when democrat politicians go against the idea of photo ID's for voting purposes, it is because they are pandering to their liberal base and just don't want to "hurt the feelings" of some of their constituency, including "the feelings" of any of their illegal family members.
It is more "politically correct" to not require photo ID's. It is not necessarily the best way to confirm voter identification.
I also find it weird that the Department of Social Services, since Obama got elected, now includes a voter registration form in their mailings, before checking to see if the addressee is registered or not. Of course, the form sent, with other casework papers, states that the determination of eligibility is not dependent on whether or not you complete the voters registration form. It says nothing about how they'd like you to vote during the 2012 election. I wonder if any lobbying from the left-leaning League of Women Voters had anything to do with the Department of Social Services including voter registration form in a state agency correspondence related to social services case work?
Politics of one group or a community service for all eligible citizens?
I sometimes wonder.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 16, 2012 | 3:58 p.m.

Amid the furor over "wasteful government spending," when it's pointed out that these voter ID laws are a complete and utter waste of time and resources, a solution looking for a problem, suddenly...

"Whether the amount of fraud currently exists is moot."

Do you people have two pillows to sleep on at night, for your two faces?

These voter ID laws are clearly backed and financed by Republican Conservative interests to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Next up will be the dog whistle cry that Democratic voters are 'destroying the country' and we MUST disenfranchise American citizens to save America.

Destroying things to save them is apparently S.O.P. these days...

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 16, 2012 | 4:14 p.m.

J Schultz - After 40 years it would be somewhat difficult to gain support for a return to age 21 for the right to vote. I can tell you was not in favor of the change. The issue came to a head because of the Vietnam War and our habit of conscripting our 18 year old children to fight and die in the Democrat conceived "wars of choice" of that era. I bet we all would have preferred those wars had been handled differently and the voting age left at 21.

I believe voters should educate themselves on the issue on the ballot they cast. Assuming you would agree, can you deny that lowering age limit 3 years provides a lot more bodies to round up (as is done regularly by ACORN and unionists at every election)and push to the polls?

"Or ban people from soliciting voter registrations (I've seen groups that aren't ACORN-affiliated registering people)?" Why do you suppose I mentioned only ACORN?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 16, 2012 | 4:22 p.m.

Derrick:
It's moot because any person needing help with getting a photo ID currently have the means to get one. This legislation could be viewed as a preventative measure.
Requiring a photo ID at the voting desk, instead of accepting a utility bill as identification, is a good idea, if it can be implemented without additional expense.
Again, the poor, seniors and the handicapped already have agencies which help with this.
And yes, I do sleep with two pillows, amongst other things. But that's none of your business.
http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/goVoteMi...

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 16, 2012 | 4:36 p.m.

Frank, I'm pretty sure I was a much more informed voter at 30 than I was at 18, 21, or 25. Where should the line be set?

As for ACORN, I believe I understand why you referenced them, but I believe it would be unconstitutional to allow one group to register voters and disallow another.

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 16, 2012 | 5:11 p.m.

"Amid the furor over "wasteful government spending," when it's pointed out that these voter ID laws are a complete and utter waste of time and resources, a solution looking for a problem, suddenly..."

When can we expect your condemnation of the Obama budget?

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 16, 2012 | 6:08 p.m.

JS - The line has been set twice. The first was to provide a voter that might better understand the issue. The second was to grant a new privilege to our youth for their sacrifices for their country in time of war. The first made more sense when considering that a vote may benefit or damage life in our country.

I put ACORN among the "ulterior motives" because of their criminal record accrued in their attempts at "voter registration".

http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-complete-gui...

If you understand why I referenced them, why am I answering questions about it?

(Report Comment)

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