At a campaign rally in Florida, President Trump made a claim that you need an ID to buy groceries, but not to vote. While you do not need an ID to buy groceries in most cases, in our country you are not required to have an ID to vote in almost any cases. With the widespread distrust in our voting system in the wake of allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and complaints about the Electoral College system, it should be imperative we take all steps we can to ensure the integrity of our electoral process. These steps should include implementing common sense Voter ID laws.
After working as a student election judge in my hometown of Sauk Rapids in the 2016 election and researching other nations around the world, I’ve found the United States severely lags behind many other countries. Norway and Israel are among a large number of nations that explicitly require a form of photo ID to be presented at the polls. Others, like our northern neighbors Canada, will also take documents like utility bills that can prove your residency or citizenship status.
By contrast, here in the United States, voters must merely state their name to an election judge, who then will find the name in the voting register and have the voter affirm they are indeed the person they claim to be. Voter ID is not required, and people who mistakenly pull out their driver’s license or other identification to show it to us are told it’s not needed. This system is based massively on trust, as without party challengers or a person who recognizes someone claiming a name that is not theirs, there is no way to verify whether each person who votes is telling the truth.
Various opinion polls put support for Voter ID laws among Americans at around 60 to 80 percent, with majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents in favor. So what is the holdup? Voter ID opponents argue these laws present a barrier to voting for poorer people and minorities, whom they say cannot access IDs as easily as other groups. They also claim voter fraud is not a large problem, with a few dozen or hundred cases reported each election cycle around the country.
On the issue of barrier to access, a photo ID is required for many tasks in everyday life. Though you do not need one to buy groceries, you do need a photo ID to complete many of these tasks:
- Buying alcohol and cigarettes
- Opening a bank account
- Applying for a job or government benefits
- Renting/buying a house or car
- Plane travel
- Purchasing a firearm
For those who do not have a type of photo ID, it’s fairly straightforward to acquire one from your state. Minnesota for instance, offers State IDs to those who do not have driver’s licenses for a maximum of $17.25, with options to apply online, by mail or in person.
With regards to voter fraud not being a major problem, I would pose this question. Is any amount of crime acceptable? Much like with other crimes, it would be impossible to completely eliminate all cases of voter fraud, but when the choices of the electorate can hinge on a few votes, do we want to take the risk some of them could be fraudulent? It would be hopeful at best and negligent at worst to not take voter fraud as the hazard it is.
We need not look too far from home to see the potential dangers. After the 2008 election for Senate in Minnesota where Al Franken beat Norm Coleman by 312 votes, Ramsey and Hennepin counties brought voter fraud charges against more than six dozen people.
I would encourage our local, state and federal lawmakers to take a look at common-sense, effective Voter ID laws that provide opportunities to all citizens to easily access a Photo ID and verify voters at the polls in order to insure the accuracy and integrity of our electoral process. In a partisan age, that’s something we should all be able to get behind.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.