With the 2012 election season in full swing, it seems only proper that new voter issues arise to potentially complicate the voting process. On that note, Pennsylvania enacted a new law Wednesday requiring all voters to show identification at the polls prior to voting. This is by far not a unique requirement, but it is a reminder of what types of issues such legislation can bring.
The intent of this legislation, as put forth by Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, is to protect the principle of “one person, one vote.” Pennsylvania, and other states before them, believes that voter identification requirements are needed to guard against voter fraud. “Supporters say the laws are no different from needing identification to board an airplane or obtain a library card.”
However those opposing laws such as these claim that voter identification laws serve only to prevent access to the polls, especially to the poor and minorities. Advocates against this legislation claim that requiring voter identification discriminates against those who cannot afford such identification nor have no access to locations where such identification can be obtained. “Democrats say voter identification measures are aimed at squeezing out university students and senior citizens who tend to vote for Democrats.”
In response to those opposed, Governor Corbett offers the statistic that he claims ninety-nine per cent (99%) of Pennsylvania citizens already have valid identification. He also offers that the Department of Transportation driver license centers would provide free identifications for those who cannot afford to purchase one themselves.
As said, this is by far a new issue. States have been dealing with this issue for several years, and the arguments against such legislation have changed very little. The issue of protecting against voter fraud is an important matter. The principle of “one person, one vote” is what our election system runs on, and any violation of that principle needs to be prevented. Requiring voter identification at the polls is certainly one way to protect against any such violation.
However, the question becomes whether the interest in protecting against voter fraud outweighs the potential that some voters may not be able to exercise their right to vote, another essential principle of our electoral system. Even in cases such as Pennsylvania, where they are offering to provide free identification to those who cannot afford one, many argue that this legislation places a greater and unnecessary burden on people requiring them to travel to license centers that may be in inconvenient locations or open at inconvenient times.
Perhaps the solution is to require identifications at polling places, but also allow some other type of identification system for those who do not have the required identification. While it is unlikely the state would want poll workers asking voters for their social security numbers, a system could be put in place where they only have to verify the last four digits of their social security, their birthday, address and telephone number. While no system is fool proof, at least a system such as this would add some level of protection against voter fraud.
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