More States Look to Voter ID Laws as Solution to Voter Fraud

On April 1, the Arkansas House approved a bill that would require voters to show valid photo identification in order to cast a ballot, overriding Governor Mike Beebe’s veto to restrict the state from enacting harsher voter ID laws. While the governor did not urge lawmakers to vote against an override, he referred to the bill as “an expensive solution in search of a problem,” leaving the ultimate decision up to the House.

As with many voter ID laws in 2013, support for Arkansas’ law was split along party lines, passing the Republican-led state House 52-45, according to the Associated Press.

In defense of the bill, state Rep. Stephen Meeks told reporters, “We are trying to protect the integrity of one of the most fundamental rights we have here in America.”

With the integrity of the democratic process in mind, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas outlined the ways in which the new bill disenfranchises eligible, longtime voters. In a memo dated March 2013, the organization argues that the law will have adverse effects on racial and ethnic minorities and senior citizens, as 25 percent of African-Americans and 18 percent of Americans over the age of 65 do not have government-issued photo ID.

Another key factor to consider, one alluded to by Gov. Beebe, is the cost of implementing voter ID laws. In order to avoid disenfranchisement associated with voter ID laws, the state of Arkansas will have to provide a free ID to the 11 percent of eligible voters that do not have a valid ID. As articulated by ACLU Arkansas, costs will also include thorough, comprehensive, and ongoing voter education and outreach by the state.

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Voter Identification Requirements by State, from National Conference of State Legislatures

Since the beginning of the year, 30 states have introduced voter ID proposals. Of the 30 proposals, 12 states wish to introduce new voter ID laws: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Arkansas now joins the list of seven states pushing for stricter voter ID laws, accompanied by Connecticut, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

Using the Supreme Court’s ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, many states list voter fraud as a leading cause for the sudden outburst in voter ID laws. The 6-3 decision reaffirmed the risk of voter fraud as real, upholding the constitutionality of requiring a photo ID at the ballot box in Indiana.

While voter fraud is a legitimate state interest, the type of voter fraud lawmakers are claiming to solve for with restrictive voter ID laws is rare.

“Most allegations of fraud turn out to be baseless — and that of the few allegations remaining, most reveal election irregularities and other forms of election misconduct, rather than fraud by individual voters,” said Justin Levitt of the New York University Law School.

So, would requiring every voter across the United States to show a valid photo ID have solved the election fraud we faced in the 2000 presidential election?