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Voter ID Laws: What Does It Mean for Teens?

Posted by on August 20, 2012 in In The News - Comments Off on Voter ID Laws: What Does It Mean for Teens?

Pennsylvania is one state with a controversial voter ID law.

The Twenty-sixth Amendment to United States Constitution guarantees the right to vote for all Americans who are eighteen years of age or older.  While the previous statement seems rather simple, in recent years, efforts have been made to circumvent the Constitution.  Such efforts have been labelled “Voter ID Laws.”  Their advocates suggest that voter fraud needs to be avoided, and therefore, better forms of voter identification are necessary.  Currently, an individual who attempts to vote fraudulently is subject to a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.  The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law characterizes someone who risks so much for a single vote as irrational.  Therefore, they state that it is not surprising that individual cases of voter fraud are exceedingly rare.  Several estimates suggest a voter fraud rate of between 0.00004 and 0.0009%.  In other words, your odds of being hit and killed by lightening is greater.  This certainly does not sound like an epidemic.  Individuals do not commit fraud to gain an extra vote.  At times, other mistakes during elections have been documented that affect voting, such as people spreading misinformation about places to vote, missing ballot boxes, or implied threats to voters.  But these types of errors would not be addressed with the current push for added voter identification requirements.  The New York Times reported that 33 states currently have some form of voter ID law, although only five have strict photo requirements.  The more strict laws require government-issued identification only.  In other words, college ID’s are not sufficient.  A driver’s license is acceptable, but many people who live in urban areas, elderly, or the poor, do not own an automobile nor have a current driver’s license.  It is estimated that 11% of people of voting age do not have a government-issued ID, with a higher concentration among minorities, those in poverty, senior citizens, students, and the disabled.  The twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned poll taxes in all federal elections.  Therefore, you cannot be charged any money in order to vote.  The Supreme Court subsequently declared that polls taxes in state elections violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  So, voting in any election is free.  Period.  However, requiring people to purchase certain forms of ID, such as a driver’s license is considered by many to be a poll tax, and is therefore unlawful.  Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney General, stated in a recent speech to the NAACP that he believed Voter ID laws are poll taxes.  These laws are likely to have significant effects, even as soon as this Presidential election.  In Pennsylvania, a strict voter ID law pushed by Republicans was recently upheld by a state judge.  An appeal is expected, but with Election Day so close, and nearly 1,000,000 people in Pennsylvania without a government-issued photo ID, the law’s goal of turning away Democratic voters may be a reality.

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