The right to vote

Recent state laws requiring a certain type of identification to vote seem to establish a natural obligation, like in other countries, to exercise the right to vote. But in the United States, it is very different.

First, there is no mandatory federal ID other than the Social Security Number. After that, each state has its own laws related to establishing a system to issue driver’s licenses (the most common form of ID) and regulating their election laws.

This combination has lent itself to having many Republican-majority states approve restrictive voter identification laws aimed at reducing voter participation, particularly in voting blocs that lean Democrat.

In this case, the problem is not requiring the identification itself, but that the laws establishing these requirements make no additional effort to make it easier to obtain the document. Therefore, they serve as a restriction, a barrier to exercising democracy.

Along with new election laws, for example, the business hours of state offices that issue the IDs should be expanded, and voter education campaigns should be implemented. Likewise, if a specific type of ID is required to exercise a right, this ID should be free. How hard it is to obtain other documents, like birth certificates in certain Southern states, should also be taken into account.

In the majority of states, when the voter ID laws were approved, amendments to make it easier to obtain the documents were rejected.

An example of this politicization of the process is the Texas law that accepts hunting permits as identification to vote, while it rejected the use of student IDs for the same purpose. The priority the Republican legislature gave to one group of voters over another is obvious.

To top it off, a recent report shows that voter roll purges in several states and requests for proof of citizenship are targeted at hindering the vote of naturalized immigrants.

This entire voter ID movement is based on a basically nonexistent type of fraud. The idea is to limit the access specific groups of voters have to the polls.

Implementing a reform to identify voters and protect their rights requires money and an interest in democratic integrity that has never existed in these laws.

Impremedia/La Opinion