Voter ID: Securing the polls

Stephen McGarvey

The voting process is of pivotal importance in a true democracy. Our leaders and policies must be determined by the will of the people, through the votes they cast on Election Day. If this process were to become corrupt, the very foundation upon which democracy is built would crumble. Unfortunately, our nation is approaching this very situation. Somehow, the most precious part of our democratic process is woefully unregulated, and while voter IDs may not fully solve the problem, they are undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Texas is one of several states that recently tried to correct absent regulations by enacting a voter ID law, but the U.S. Department of Justice blocked its preclearance earlier this month. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has pointed to the need to correct voter fraud as cause to support the law, filed a lawsuit in response over spring break. Hopefully, Abbott can succeed and allow Texas to secure its voting polls.

Those who believe voter fraud is not a problem are only kidding themselves. A 2012 Pew Research Center study revealed more than 24 million — or one in eight — voter registrations are no longer valid or contain various inaccuracies. Many of these belong to deceased individuals or individuals who remain actively registered in multiple states. These unchecked inconsistencies and holes in the voting process allow for voter fraud.

Unfortunately, progress toward authenticating the voting process has been met with harsh criticism from the left, which claims that requiring legitimate identification hurts poor and minority citizens. But behind this seemingly noble intention lurks a hidden agenda: Requiring a voter ID or other authentication would damage the Democratic Party’s voting base, particularly by eliminating the votes fraudulently cast by undocumented citizens. Opponents claim it is too difficult for legitimate voters without licenses to order state ID cards, but it would seem anyone who takes any significant stake in the voting process wouldn’t mind taking a quick trip to their local Department of Motor Vehicles. Similarly, they claim voter fraud does not make up a significant percentage of the votes, but it would seem that since fraud is an illegal and hidden activity, its permeation cannot be adequately measured just by looking at the convicted cases. Besides, if even a single illegitimate vote gets cast, an infraction of democracy has occurred and needs to be stopped.

All of this isn’t to say that the right wing is perfect either. Many Republican voter ID proposals make it far too difficult for all citizens to comply. If voter IDs are to be required, it should be made extremely easy and convenient for all citizens to get access to state ID cards. In addition, these cards should be free so even the poorest families have no excuse to not obtain proper documentation. The DMV should be kept open late at least one night a week to allow for working families, and there should be mail and Internet options available as well for those who may not be able to make the drive.

The most important step that must be made to make voter IDs fair and effective is informing voters. The more voters who are aware of the procedure, the smoother things will go on Election Day. The first election following the change could even offer an on-site option for photo-ID generation for those who have come unprepared. Election integrity is important, but disenfranchising voters should not occur either.

It is truly absurd that it has become easier and less secure to cast a vote determining our country’s future than to rent a movie or check out a library book. Tremendous pressure from the left has kept all attempts of legitimizing the process at bay, and insufficient consideration coupled with stubborn resilience from the right has made compromise difficult. The Democrats want to maintain their entire voter base, including some who legally should not be there, and the Republicans want to eliminate voter fraud but at the expense of some with lower socioeconomic status. The voting process must be improved, but until the parties stop trying to promote their own agendas, the issue will never be settled. It should not be too difficult in the 21st century to craft an accommodating voter ID system that strikes a balance between convenience and legitimacy.  

McGarvey is a business honors freshman.