Pros and Cons of Voter ID Laws

Voter ID cards, or identification cards, range from basic to very complex with several security features.

Voter ID laws have both pros and cons and different people vary in their opinions.

The idea of having to present voter ID at polls to receive a ballot has been discussed in detail.

Some believe that passing a voter ID law will deny citizens their constitutional right to vote, thereby making these laws unconstitutional.

Voter ID laws mean voters will have to present identification so they can vote at polls.

Photo ID is already required in some states, although it is hotly debated in all states with both supporters and opponents of this idea.

Supporters claim that requiring voter ID stops voting fraud, it’s easy to implement and that it won’t decrease minority voter turnout.

On the other hand, opponents argue voter ID laws would be problematic for a number of voters, that in-person voting fraud is rare and that these laws would target minorities.

How Common is Voting Fraud?

Not having ID cards for voting can result in voting fraud, such as someone being able to vote multiple times or to vote as someone they are not.

According to a study done by the DOI, agents pretending to be people who were in jail, or had moved away or died, 97% of the time they were allowed to vote.

This shows that voting fraud is not only possible but also not intercepted, proving a very good case for the use of voter ID cards.

This debate concerning voter identification has been going on for many years, since the right claims it is necessary to safeguard against voting fraud while the left claims it is disenfranchising to minorities.

One of the arguments against voting ID laws is there is no way this type of fraud can sway the election and result in the wrong candidate winning.

In reality though, this has happened in a number of countries, where the illegal vote amount was bigger than the legal vote amount, resulting in the wrong candidate winning.

Pros of Voter ID Laws

Let’s take a look at some of the voter ID laws pros:

  1. A reliable method of identification
  2. Might include security features like fingerprints or signature to check it belongs to the voter
  3. Proof the voter is legally registered to vote
  4. Are able to be designed responding to lower rates of literacy
  5. Can be marked after the voter has voted to prevent voting multiple times
  6. Makes voting in places where the voter isn’t known locally easier
  7. Can be issued with materials to educate voters as part of a campaign
  8. Is reliable identification for a voter without a fixed address
  9. Might convey a sense of pride in some individuals symbolizing their legal ability to vote

Cons of Voter ID Laws

  1. The expenses have to be covered by either the voter or the government or both. If the cost ends up being the responsibility of the voter, this will mean fewer eligible voters who will be able to get one. The actual cost of producing these cards varies a lot – for example in the 1990s in Mexico, they were very expensive to produce, mainly because of the security features. In Ghana, the costs were much lower. In Malawi in 1998 it cost about $1.1 million US to produce 4.5 million ID cards for voting. A camera was needed at every registration center for the 30 days of registrations. If this could have been done with fewer cameras, shortening the period for registration, the cost would have been about $150,000 US
  2. Voter ID cards might be stolen or lost
  3. Cards need to be made with the right technology available at the setting where they are made and used. If there is no electricity at the card-issuing or registration locations, a cold laminate might be used to seal the cards instead.
  4. There has to be a well-organized administration in place to make the cards.
  5. These cards will have to be updated sometimes. They will wear out over time and the photos on them will be dated, which means a system of regular replacement will also have to be set up.
  6. It is critical the electrical authority has a reliable ID card system. For example, Cameroon had a lot of problems in 1997 with poor ID card distribution which limited how many could vote.
  7. Studies have shown that around 11% of eligible voters don’t have photo ID issued by the government, and that figure is even higher for people of color, disabled, seniors, students, and low-income voters. A lot of citizens face problems apply for a government photo ID because getting the documentation required for such an ID such as a birth certificate, can be hard or costly to obtain.

In Conclusion

Wherever you stand on this debate it’s true there are both pros and cons to voter ID laws. Bear in mind you need photo ID for many activities – in fact everything from cashing a check to filling your prescription.

If you check into a hotel or hospital, get a marriage license, buy beer or cigarettes, board a plane, enter a government building, or apply for public assistance, you must show photo ID.

This is why many people believe in photo ID for something as important as voting. Of course voting is one of the most important citizenship privileges.

On the other hand, it has been shown that stricter ID laws in the US concerning voting can disadvantage groups that are already marginalized.

Unlike in Europe, for example, where everyone already has a mandatory national card proving their ID, a lot of citizens who can’t drive don’t have drivers’ licenses while those who can’t afford foreign vacations won’t have passports.

Many people don’t even have a bank account, which means voter ID can prove a barrier to people who should have the right to vote.

There are arguments on both sides of this debate, although it’s fair to say insisting everyone must have a voter ID card in order to be able to vote is going to cost millions of dollars to implement and maintain.