Photo ID at polls complicates voting


art by Elena Franck

Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi

art by Elena Franck
art by Elena Franck
Fifteen dollars, the average cost of a government issued photo identification, may not seem like a lot of money, but for the majority of Americans, it adds up to a lot of their monthly paycheck. The median paycheck for working age Americans is $2820 per month, not including rent, food, utilities, transportation and other expenses.
It may seem reasonable to say that even then, they can surely afford to save $15 over the course of a few months, but $15 is not the only cost. In order to get a photo ID, Americans would need to spend money to drive or pay a public bus to go to the ID station and they would need to get their birth certificates and social security numbers, ranging from $10 to $30 depending on the state.
Poll taxes emerged after the end of the Civil War in order to make it difficult for African-Americans to vote. Along with poll taxes, states who wished to make it hard for minorities to vote implemented unfair literacy tests and the grandfather clause, which only allows people to vote if their grandfather could.
Now, a total of 34 states have passed voter identification laws, which require voters to present identification before voting. In strict states, if individuals don’t have ID, they can cast a provisional ballot, but if they don’t return within a short period of time with valid identification, the provisional ballot is never counted. Some states also require photo ID, and for strict states the same rules of the provisional ballots apply. In some states, poll workers may be able to vouch for voters if they know them.
Back in the day, poll taxes charged people $1 to vote, which is almost equal to $19 today. Those newly invented photo ID laws charged people the cost of the ID, time away from their job and the cost of the birth certificates or other documents necessary for the ID.
There is no difference between photo ID laws and the laws passed after the Civil War, which are seen as unconstitutional today.
In recent years, lawmakers in more than 30 states implemented photo ID laws. These laws are supposedly meant to limit the amount of voter fraud cases, but in reality, they seem to only limit the voice of the minorities in America because the majority of the minority vote for liberals and because specifically Republican lawmakers wish to make it easier for their representatives to get elected into office.
Voting is a right given to every single American citizen and rather than making it harder to vote, the representatives should make it easier.
In a five-year investigation, the Department of Justice during George W. Bush’s presidency found that only 86 convictions of voter fraud occurred out of tens of millions of votes cast. That percentage is too small even to matter.
What these voter ID laws actually do, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and many other organizations, is unfairly affect African-Americans, senior citizens, the disabled, young voters and the working poor. More than six million citizens above the age of 65, or 18 percent of the total population, do not have a current government issued photo ID. Among African-American voting age citizens, a quarter do not have an ID, compared with only 8 percent of the same-aged whites. Of the working poor, at least 15 percent who earn under $35,000 per year do not have an ID.
If each of those 30 states fully implemented their photo ID laws, it would cost more than $828 million from the American taxpayers over the first four years. This money would be used to issue free IDs, voter education and many other minor details, like updating voting websites and hiring and training people to inspect the IDs on Election Day.
Almost one billion dollars of Americans’ money will go to a law that makes it harder for Americans to vote.
To avoid lawsuits, part of the $828 million would include free government issued photo IDs. The one thing the law does not make free are documents to get an ID.
Rather than focusing on a supposed voter fraud, which is almost non-existent, Americans should focus on more important issues like immigration reform, income inequality, social mobility, the deficit, gun control and money in politics, among many others.
It should be in the interest of every American to make it easier to vote. The system in place is good, but two thirds of Americans still don’t vote. This number of people stifle their own power by deciding not to vote.
As a simple solution, states should make voting available in multiple forms, like through the mail, online and at voting stations so that no American has an excuse not to vote. It would be amazing to see 300 million citizens vote in a presidential election. When that happens, Americans can happily say we are a country of the people, by the people and for the people.
By Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi