Are "voter ID" laws preventing voter fraud or committing voter suppression?
Voter identification laws have been justified as a way to prevent voter fraud, but they may also be keeping valid voters from voting. "Voter fraud" is a term that refers to individuals who vote illegally, misrepresent themselves at the polls or improperly attempt to register voters. While there is scant evidence that "voter fraud" actually exists, the allegations of fraud are widespread and have frequently been used to justify restrictive policies, including voter ID laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.
Lawmakers who support new voter ID regulations suggest that they would keep noncitizens from voting and prevent people from voting multiple times. Critics of voter ID laws, including voting rights advocates, claim that the legislation is an effort by the Republican Party to suppress voter turnout of specific groups. They claim that the laws disproportionately affect the elderly, less-educated, poor and minorities who, while qualified to vote, are less likely to have valid ID or easy means to access it.
On January 9, 2008, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case questioning the constitutionality of an Indiana law requiring voters to show a current state photo ID. Indiana's voter identification law is the strictest in the nation, and the ruling will have a strong impact on other states' decisions in this area.
MORE FROM NOW
Block the Vote
Perspectives: Voter's Voices
State by State: Voting Rules and Restriction
Personal Essay: Democracy in the Deep South
From Mother Jones: America's 11 Worst Places to Vote
Book Excerpt: "Stealing Democracy"
Primer: The Voting Rights Act
Will The 2008 Vote Be Fair?
Brennan Center for Justice: The Truth about Fraud
Brennan Center for Justice: Policy brief on voter identification