The voter identification laws have brought controversy and suits in the courts of law. The policy is seen as discriminative by those opposing it, while its supporters see it as a way of preventing voting fraud and malpractices. This paper shall analyze the voter identification law and policy, with focus on California State, in determining its value in the society.
Federal Identification Requirements
Help America Vote Act (HAVA) 2002, created the requirement of a voter ID for first time voters who register by mail. The requirements must be met the first-time one vote’s in any state in a federal election - even regardless of whether one had voted before in a different state. The accepted forms of identifications include, a valid current photo identification such as driving license, American passport, military ID, tribal ID, work ID, student ID, etc OR alternatively, a recent utility bill, paycheck, bank statement, government check, other verifiable government documents that indicates one’s name and current address. However, certain persons are exempted from these requirements i.e. disabled, military personnel, elderly, and overseas voters who vote by absentee ballot (Long Distance Voter, 2012).
California Voter Identification Laws/Policy
The Act (HAVA) necessitated States to formulate specific voter ID laws, with some States having Voter ID requirements that surpass the Help America Vote Act of 2002 requirements. The State of California follows HAVA requirements. While registering to vote for the first time and one did not satisfy the requirement of providing identification, an ID is required while voting. The California Code of Regulations provides for a variety of accepted forms of identification. This can be interpreted make it easier for the voter to meet the ID requirement. In addition, doubts about the sufficiency of ID presented shall be resolved in favor of the voter. Where the allowed proof is not presented, the registrant or voter shall be notified by an official that they are permitted to vote a provisional ballot (Barclays Law Publishers, 2006).
The Purpose of the Voters Identification Laws
The intended purpose of the voter ID requirement, as argued by its supporters, is to prevent voter fraud by confirming that the voters are whom they claim to be. Proponents of these voter requirement laws are mostly Republicans and States that do not have history of voter discrimination (Goodwin, 2012).
However, opponents to these laws argue that the laws disenfranchise minority citizens, who are less likely to possess a photo ID than white voters. Democrats, who oppose these laws, believe it is a political tool/strategy used by Republicans for their unfair political gain, as the laws mostly affects negatively constituencies that vote for Democrats (Goodwin, 2012).
The validity of the purpose of this law has been said to lie in the fact that the courts (Supreme Court) has not held the voter identification laws to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has also said that, States affected by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, may no longer require the same oversight by the federal government as they did during the time that voter discrimination was prevalence. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, provides the federal government with the authority to preemptively reject modifications to election law in counties and states that have a history of discrimination of minority voters. This law applies to nine states and portions of seven more states (Goodwin, 2012).
Analyzing the Voter ID Law Using the Strategic Triangle Method
The Voter Identification laws are substantively valuable in preserving the integrity of electoral process. The use of photo ID during voter registration or voting exercise is one of the effective methods of preventing and detecting voter fraud. The right to vote mandates that ballots be assessable to voters and that, fraudulently casted votes do not dilute lawfully casted votes. Such measures would guarantee honest, free, and fair elective process. The Carter Baker report on federal election reform recommended that, to secure public confidence in electoral process, measures to identify and prevent fraud and/or confirm the voters’ identity should be applied (Senator Barrasso, 2012).
The Voter Identification laws are legally and politically sustainable. Legally, the Supreme Court has held these laws to be constitutional. In 2005, Indiana State imposed a law requiring voters to present government issued photo ID for one to cast a ballot. The Supreme Court in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board ruled that, the law was well within the Constitution. The court stated that the measured imposed by Indiana are unquestionably relevant to the State’s interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process (Senator Barrasso, 2012).
Moreover, as both a legal and political issue, there is a risk voter fraud. In the Marion County Election Board case, Stevens J identified that several examples of voter fraud have arisen in times which illustrate that voter fraud is real and it could affect the results of a close election. In addition, recent cases illustrated, that non citizens have been voting illegally in federal elections, at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Baker-Carter Commission established that indeed voter fraud happens. As a result the perceived possible fraudulent acts contribute to decreasing public confidence in the system (Senator Barrasso, 2012).
Politically, despite the Democrats criticizing the voter identification laws as being designed to disenfranchise and suppress certain group of voters, they ignore the fact that a Democrat Administration, through the Department of Justice, has approved some of the similar laws that they (Democrats) have objected to e.g. in New Hampshire and Virginia. Furthermore, opponents of these laws ignore the precedent of the Supreme Court allowing state laws that curtail vote fraud, thus not acknowledging the existence of vote fraud (Senator Barrasso, 2012).
The law is operationally and administratively feasible since it can be implemented effectively and efficiently. American citizens are required to produce identification in many daily activities, without which they would not be allowed to take part in, including those that are guaranteed by the constitution. For instance: Citizens have a constitutional right to petition the government, but access to federal /government buildings can be restricted only to persons who are able to produce identification. Also, Citizens have a right to travel, but they are required to produce identification in order to board a train or even fly (Senator Barrasso, 2012).
The Voter Identification Laws/policy can withstand and pass the strategic triangle test since, it is legitimate, and politically sustainable; election process is frequently recurs after a fixed period of time. Also, valuable activities (free, fair, election thus democracy) can be accomplished at a low monetary and authority cost; no new special IDs are required.
I support the new voter ID laws that requires first time eligible voters to provide their photo ID or other identifications during registration or voting exercise. This is a way to uphold the credibility of the electoral process. I have also learnt the important duty of the Supreme Court in interpreting and protecting the constitution, as it is applied by constitutional and public institutions.
Barclays Law Publishers. (2006). Barclays Official California Code of Regulations. Retrieved from http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/regulations/hava_id_regs_from_barclays_3_3_06.pdf
Long Distance Voter. (2012). Voter Identification Laws. Retrieved from http://www.longdistancevoter.org/voter_identification#.UVnyZDeZfTp
L. Goodwin. (2013, February 27). Voter Identification Laws in Balance as Supreme Court Considers Voting Rights Act [news article]. Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/.html
Senator Barrasso, J. (2012, September 21). Preserving the Integrity of the Electoral Process. Retrieved from http://www.rpc.senate.gov/policy-papers/preserving-the-integrity-of-the-electoral-process