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September 23, 2016
Questions around voter ID laws have circulated the Country over this past year. From Texas to North Carolina, courts have commented on the constitutionality of these laws. This will likely have an impact on voters come November.
In Texas, voter ID laws were relatively strict: citizens had to have some form of picture identification in order to place their vote. Then in 2013, the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives filed a suit challenging the law on the grounds of discrimination. They stated that the law keeps a citizen from voting simply because of circumstance (i.e. they don’t have ID). Though ID-less voters come in many forms, the majority of citizens that fit into this category tend to be low income Americans or those who do not have a definitive address. Lawmakers find that the majority of the people in this category are disproportionately of black or Hispanic descent.
The state of Texas claims that the law was put in place to combat voter fraud, but one of the judges says that’s not what the court found concerning:
“Ballot integrity is undoubtedly a worthy goal,” Judge Haynes wrote. “But the evidence before the Legislature was that in-person voting, the only concern addressed by SB 14, yielded only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade leading up to SB 14’s passage. The bill did nothing to combat mail-in ballot fraud, although record evidence shows that the potential and reality of fraud is much greater in the mail-in ballot context than with in-person voting.”
The court was explicit, stating that it was a troubling coincidence that this measure came at a time when the demographics of voters electing Republicans was on the decline.
In North Carolina, the state also held a strict voter ID law, but had built in exceptions in the event of religious objection and other concerns. There were also concerns around the parameters for early voting and voter registration restrictions. The law was struck down because the court clearly stated that the law as it was purposely suppressed and discriminated against the black voter.
Now, the state is trying to determine how to accommodate a longer process and thinks the solution may be early voting.
Mecklenburg County’s elections board Chair Mary Potter Summa told The Charlotte Observer, “I’m not a big fan of early voting, but in this county the reality is we have to have it because we don’t have enough machines to accommodate voters on Election Day.” Comments at the bottom of The Charlotte Observer article had mixed reactions to the strike down of the law and the proposed solution.
User Jim Bazan says, “Why do so many elected officials distrust voters? Are these officials sending the message that they know they shouldn’t have been elected?” Then again user Quaymar Knakeya rebutted, “People getting any money from the government (excluding social security that they earned) should not be allowed to vote due to conflict of interest.”
Regardless of opinions, the problem in both cases becomes about how the states should fix the law and get the word out before November. Just as the former law may turn voters away without proper documentation, correcting problems could have the same ramifications due to confusion or difficulty. Low voter turnout can greatly skew election results because of a disproportionate spectrum of opinion, which can result in an unrealistic view of the public as a whole. This can greatly impact laws that are on a ballot, and may not give a voice to the individuals a law actually impacts.
The conversation is far from over as an appeal is pending in North Carolina (and there is evidence of a possible appeal in Texas) to decide how to make voting fair and effective without jeopardizing rights. When it comes to the general election, only time will tell how the rulings impact those who show up to the polls.