Election 2012: On Election Day, Should You Need ID?

Voting is an important responsibility of American citizens, and one foundation of our democratic republic. But no electoral process can be perfect; flaws, such as fraud, can mar an election and damage the public’s confidence. The importance of ensuring the integrity of every vote cast is balanced against the need to make sure every person has the unfettered ability to vote. Recently the issue of Voter ID laws has been getting a lot of attention. Proponents argue requiring photo identification is necessary to prevent fraud, while critics suggests these laws are aimed at disenfranchising the poor and members of minority groups who are less likely to have ID. As we get closer to November 6th, other issues of access, such as the availability of early voting and the presence of election monitors have arisen. This eLesson explores the important procedural and constitutional considerations that surround the election.

 


Student Handout (PDF)

Founding Documents

News Resources

Voting monitor group: We’ll adhere to Texas laws – Huffington Post

Fake voter registration letters raise alarm in Florida with early voting set to begin – Fox News

Court upholds voter ID law – The Tennessean

Ohio has early voting, but other vote access issues remain – LA Times

Watchdog Groups Prep For Voter Intimidation, Fraud – NPR

Questions to Consider

  1. There are various examples of limitations being placed upon the exercise of other constitutional rights (ex. Permit requirements to speak in certain public areas; waiting periods to buy a gun). Are voter ID laws similar, and, if so, are they reasonable?
  2. Is there a correlation between voter fraud and absentee voting? Some argue that it’s easier to commit fraud when voters are not in a single location, and some critics point to widespread ‘distance’ voting as a major contributor to fraudulent election results. Is there a point where ensuring that everyone can vote is outweighed by fears of fraud, or should the primary focus be on making sure everyone has a chance to vote?
  3. Comparisons have been made between voter ID laws and poll taxes. Government IDs often cost a nominal fee, and poll taxes were designed to disenfranchise predominately poor African-Americans by making everyone pay a surcharge before voting. Do you believe the comparison is accurate?
  4. Some other countries make voting mandatory. Supporters say it reduces fraud and increases participation, while critics point out that uninformed votes from unengaged citizens might well be worse than low participation. Do you think these types of mandatory voting laws are a good idea? Is not voting ever the right thing to do?
  5. Some people suggest that a national ID system is an appropriate step to not only help combat voter fraud, but also to standardize IDs that are different across the fifty states. Critics contend that putting a central database of IDs in the hands of the federal government would lead to more surveillance and possible abuse. What do you think?