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Comments roundup: Much ado about voter IDs

Not long ago, we reported that 17 states were changing their voter laws, including Ohio, where a bill was proposed that would limit the forms of acceptable ID voters can use on Election Day to only government-issued photo IDs. The bill, aimed at curbing voter fraud, recently hit a serious roadblock, but that didn’t stop some of our readers from engaging in a debate over whether it was such a big deal to require a government-issued photo ID for voting.

On Facebook, Juli offered a simple rule:

If you don’t have legal ID then you shouldn’t be voting. Period.

Another Facebook commenter, Walter, also didn’t see what was so objectionable about requiring a government-issued ID to vote:

You need a photo ID for so MANY things already — what’s one more? Sheesh. I have a non-driver ID, and I think it only cost like $6.50 or so, and it lasts for years, so the cost per year is tiny.

The Money Clubhouse agreed:

If it’s important to you to vote you’ll get off your butt, get the required photo ID, show up on time and follow the rules. It’s time to stop making excuses for anyone too lazy and uninformed to exercise their “rights and privileges.”

But commenter Jane argued that this change would suppress votes:

Photo IDs would be fine if they were free. Otherwise they are a polltax. Not to mention, there’s a significant inconvenience for handicapped/seniors and those that don’t drive to get a state issued photo id. There is no proof that there is voter fraud, but there is proof that this will suppress young voters, poor voters, and seniors.

Aimee echoed the sentiment:

The issue (and salient question) isn’t always “how will this affect me?” These changes in voter registration/identificatio­n requirements won’t affect me per se, but if they prevent other eligible American citizens from voting, particularly people from historically low-voting demographics, then I think the changes are bad and dangerous. Why put more obstacles in the way of people who wish to vote … unless there’s something cynically political at work. The goal should be to include MORE people in voting, not FEWER.

Brenden offers a tip from Oregon, where voters are not required to have government-issued IDs to cast their ballots:

It isn’t a requirement to have ID in many states. It isn’t a requirement to do anything which requires an ID. To be eligible to vote you simply need to be a resident in the area you are voting and old enough to vote. Anything extra is an undue burden which can not be justified. We vote by mail in Oregon and no ID is required. If we lose our ballot we go to the election headquarters and get a new one printed out. Again there is no ID required. We don’t have bad vote fraud here.

And on our website, Annapurna Moffatt gave a Canadian perspective on voting:

I’m so glad I’m a Canadian: here, voting’s easy, simple, and no one’s tried to change the laws. Yes, we need ID (driver’s license/picture ID, utilities bill, etc.–and if you don’t have ID, you can have someone who knows you vouch for you), but it’s a simple process. Now, if only our elections were actually fair …

Keep up with all of our reader-driven discussions here at Need to Know, on Facebook and on Twitter.



  • Jeriw

    My father-in-law lost his state issued ID (Ohio). He is 83 years old & when we tried to get a new birth certificate from Seguin, TX where he was born, there was no record from 1927. Does that mean that he should not be allowed to vote? A birth certificate is one of the requirements to get a state ID in Ohio. I’m sure he is not the only older person this would affect. It isn’t because he’s lazy that he can’t get an ID. He has voted his whole life & now he might not be able to, because we can’t get a state ID. I don’t think that is right at all. 

  • Fred

    So what is the problem, either want to vote or you don’t.  People in the US have one of the lowest voter percentage, so if people who want to vote the can and will.

  • Nicole J Wilkinson

    Also, people seem to keep forgetting about one group of people in Ohio.  The Amish.  It is against their religion to have their photographs taken.  They drive their buggies but they are not required to have an Ohio Driver’s License.

    Should they be barred from voting because they won’t break their religious beliefs for you?  They are American’s too, they pay taxes and are productive members to society….Shouldn’t they count too?

    And what Jane said is right.  If the ID’s were free, then we wouldn’t need to have this discussion.  There are people out there who cannot afford even the less than $10.00 they need — or if they need to get birth certificates and other records those cost money too….Are any of you willing to pony up the cash for those people?  If not, then you have no right to judge or comment.

    They (Politicians) complain that voter turn-outs are low but then want to put in more laws making voting difficult?  Seems they should make them easier….But thats the hope of the GOP isn’t it?  To make sure they get all the voters, either by taxes, new unnecessary laws and fearmongering.

  • Les Oakes

    Maybe a National voter ID card such as used in Mexico???? Happens to be FREE and is the most widely accepted photo ID for anything….

  • Tjh

    I do believe that before we make state ids mandatory for voter identification, we should do a far better job of preventing fraud in the issuance of such ids. Also, all voters will need to be issued an id at no cost to themselves. And accommodation must be made for those who for religious or other reasons cannot meet the picture id requirements.

  • TracyG

    I know what you’re going through. My MIL let her out-of-state driver’s license expire while her husband was dying. She was born in 1925 in rural Texas-no record in Austin where the county would have sent documents that old. I tried on and off for 2 years to get her a “delayed birth certificate” so that she could get a state-issued ID. I was unable to procure the paperwork they required for the birth certificate but gathered together what paperwork I could and she was successful in getting the ID only because the sergeant on duty at the TxDPS took pity on us. But at least she was living IN Texas at the time.

    They would have taken her expired out-of-state license as a primary source of identification if it hadn’t been expired for more than two years, in which case it would have been the only form of identification she would have needed.

    It seems like they should have a record of him if he’s had an ID there before. One of the things that we showed was a TX DL that expired in 1982. She existed here before and she still exists…

    I wish you luck.

  • Dctrbob1

    Voter fraud is not a problem in the USA, it’s almost non-existent. The motives for these laws are obvious.

  • Diane from Tennessee

    As has been discussed seniors have issues with picture IDs.  Here in TN anyone over 65 years old can get a driver’s license without a picture.  These people, regardless of their health, will have to return to the licensure bureau, present additional documentation, and wait an unknown amount of time.

    Not everyone has a car or easy access to the driver’s licensure bureau.  Those without cars and who are using public transportation have many problems.  First is finding a driver’s licensure bureau location near the bus route.  Second is knowing the appropriate documentation to take. 

    There are not licensure bureau offices in all counties.  In some areas a person must drive 30 miles or more to get the picture ID.  No only is this inconvenient, for those with jobs, it is nearly impossible.

    Yes people who are highly motivated might be able to overcome these barriers.  But there has been not documentation that these barriers are necessary.  If we have a major voter fraud problem, no one has been writing about it.  These barriers have been constructed to repress voting of those most likely to vote Democratic.

  • fishman from east harlem

    Simply put there should be no obstacle to voting. Requiring government issued id is just a way to keep the disenfranchised out of the voting booth.

  • New Mexico Teacup Coyote

    I am a registered voter.  I am disabled living in a small town with no car.  The town has no public transportation.  I have no relatives within 1200 miles.   I live in Senior Housing and my neighbors don’t drive either.  $10.00 to me is 2-3 days of food.
    People who are of average income and in good health don’t understand the hardships of low-income disabled and elderly individuals.
    It is a poll tax unless the govt is willing to pay for the extra $ I have to put forward in order to vote.

  • Anonymous

    Clearly there should be exceptions for those who can’t get the paperwork for their ID due to having no technical record of when they were born. But having an ID is a basic necessity for anyone whether they want to acknowledge it or not. And as for the cost, someone else said it’s only about 7 dollars to get an ID, and while I agree that seniors on a fixed income needing an ID should get it for free, that isn’t an excuse for anyone else.

  • Anonymous

    Clearly there should be exceptions for those who can’t get the paperwork for their ID due to having no technical record of when they were born. But having an ID is a basic necessity for anyone whether they want to acknowledge it or not. And as for the cost, someone else said it’s only about 7 dollars to get an ID, and while I agree that seniors on a fixed income needing an ID should get it for free, that isn’t an excuse for anyone else.

  • Jon Armeli

    so its fine with you then that those of us who cant afford to pay the $$ (actually $20 here in Vermont) just just don’t count? thank you so much. I paid into social security for 30 years just to find out that once i was taken out by M.S. that i would not get enough $$ to live on and now I have to pay for my right to vote! that’s wonderful thank you from the bottom of my heart :P

  • ItsThatLiberalAgain

    Everyone who votes should simply have to register their fingerprint at the time they register to vote.  Then a fingerprint should be required as positive ID on the ballot. If it’s an electronic ballot, then use an electronic finger print scanner. Either way, it would make sure there are no duplicates. And absentee voting by mail should be done away with. That’s just asking for trouble. I’m disabled and I manage to get my @$$ down to the polling place.  Getting there once every couple of years to vote is not asking THAT much.

  • JohnnyE

    Paul Weyrich – “I don’t want everybody to vote”

    Face it, it’s a poll tax unless government provides the ID for free.

    It seems senseless to use a drivers license for voter ID.  Does it say where you were born or whether you’re a citizen or not?

    It’s just a voter suppression ploy.  There’s only been something like one documented case of a voter providing false ID.  But the Republicans, especially Karl Rove & his protege Tim Griffin (who was made a US Attorney as a reward for his voter cagingactivities) have been successful in getting large numbers of eligible voters kicked off the rolls unbeknowst to them.

    They should finally think about a national id card.  It’s not an invasion of privacy because banks and government already know everything they want about you.  But it would be good to prevent id theft.  And since we’re a mobile society we should be able to vote whereever we reside at the time.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Nicole, but you need to brush up on your “Comparative Religions 101″  Amish and most Anabaptist prefer NOt to have their picture taken but it is not like a devout Muslim man dancing with Madonna.  Voting history shows that in Ohio and Pa the turnouts tend to be higher in local elections than national, but registration is lower to begin with.  Let me ask you if I have to have a photo-id to take a blood test (which I was required last week at Quest labs in Va) and to enter a Federal Building and, in most states now, stay in a hotel/motel that is part of a chain why not to vote?

  • Cotie1893

    In Oregon photo id is $44.00 and if you dont have it you cant go into Tax Office, city hall, court buildings government checks no way to get when on low social security income.

  • Cotie1893

    In Oregon photo id is $44.00 and if you dont have it you cant go into Tax Office, city hall, court buildings government checks no way to get when on low social security income.

  • Cotie1893

    In Oregon photo id is $44.00 and if you dont have it you cant go into Tax Office, city hall, court buildings government checks no way to get when on low social security income.

  • Irish

    O’ contraire.  Voter fraud is and always has been a problem.  Almost every year there ARE stories of college kids who boast of having voted in both their own home town, and in the town where they are going to school, people saying they have been able to vote in two or more districts close to their homes, and so on. Saying voting fraud is non-existent is like saying racism is non-existent.  Just because it is not on the front page every day does not mean it isn’t happening.  Case in point, remember the ”hanging chad” fiasco? Remember how some areas were saying their voters MEANT to vote for one candidate, but actually voted for another, and wanted to CHANGE their votes?
    No, there’s no voting fraud.  There’s no racism.  Oh, by the way, MANY Americans (myself included) MUST show a government ID just to go to WORK each day.  You must also show an ID to use your credit card, board an airplane, get a home loan, and the list goes on and on.  No one is crying how having to show an ID to board a plane is racial, or infringing on their rights, no one is crying about the audacity and racial discrimination of having to show an ID to get a home loan, and so forth.  If you’re too damn lazy to follow rules, go to another country!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mikey Amerine

    Do we no longer require a valid ID to pick up our prescription drugs?  Do we no longer require an valid ID to collect Unemployment?  Do we no longer require a valid ID to collect Welfare?  Do we no longer require a valid ID to apply for a job?  Do we no longer require a valid ID to open a bank account?

    Seriously, you have to be brain-numb to subscribe to the notion that you shouldn’t have to prove who you are to vote.  There are NUMEROUS examples of voter fraud.  Dead people voting, people in prison voting, people that don’t exist voting.  If you listen the those that complain about it the most, you’ll correctly identify which political party received the most fraudulent votes . . . because they are identical.

  • DLGreen

    Your identity is checked as part of voter registration, so any ID required to vote should be issued as part of that process, presumably with your registration card. Any requirement to obtain other ID is a de facto poll tax and should be illegal. Therefore, any voter ID law that does not provide the ID should be ruled unconstitutional. This also eliminates any argument about discrimination.

  • Xena

    I don’t have an id. I want one but don’t have enough points and don’t have any way to get more.

  • MNMom

    I believe an ID is necessary to protect eveyone’s vote. I would even go so far to say that ALL state ID’s should be provided for free. Not licenses, because those are a choice, but all, basic Identification cards should be provided for no charge. If a person can get to the polls, they can get an ID card. I think voting should be as easy as possible, but right now, it is too easy for illegal residents and “dead” people to vote. A friend told me her father was on the voting register three years after he died. An ID would clear the field and make the voting process stronger. If someone cannot obtain a birth certificate due to age, they should be allowed an ID provided they apply in the same county of their birth. Problems with the system are not insurmountable. Flexibility will be required at first, and adaptation needs to be made for some citizens.