Voter ID laws

As many of you probably know, thanks to those wonderful TV and radio campaign commercials, a presidential election is coming up in November. With major elections, we often hear what the different parties are doing to boost their odds of victory.

This time around, the hot topic is voter ID laws, which has been a fiercely contested debate in the past few years. On one side of the argument stand the Republicans, who claim that it prevents voter fraud from takingplace, which, according to many of their officials, has run rampant in recent years. Meanwhile, the Democrats counter that argument, saying this is a ploy to alienate voters who would normally vote blue.

Since 2010, 11 states have passed laws requiring voters to present some kind of identification when they vote. This brings the number of states with identification laws in effect up to more than 30.

Ohio has, for at least as long as I have been voting, required voters to present identification when they show up at the polls. According to the secretary of state’s website, a voter can present any document that provides proof of his or her identity, such as pay stubs and even utility bills.

Of those states that mandate some form of identification, 10 require these to be photo IDs, which is the form that has been met with the biggest resistance. The argument stands that these forms of identification are not easily accessible for some members of the public to acquire, which essentially prevents them from exercising their right to vote.

Now, in the example of the state of Pennsylvania, they have pledged more than $5 million to help assist all eligible voters to get access to a photo ID.

The argument is whether to charge the public to acquire these IDs. This, essentially, would make it a poll tax, which is strictly prohibited by our nation’s Constitution. Eric Chianese, a recent YSU political science graduate, virtually reaffirmed the problematic situation.

“Presenting a photo ID isn’t such a problem as long as all voters have equal access to government-issued IDs. Unfortunately, that is clearly not the case,” Chianese said. “People live in rural areas away from DMVs. Some of them do not have cars. The IDs have to be free, too. Otherwise, the charge amounts to a poll tax.”

Now, when I think of voter fraud, I cannot help but call to mind the Chris Farley movie “Black Sheep,” during which he discovers that the incumbent running against his brother for the governor of Washington has been registering dead voters for her cause.

Now, even though something as outrageous as this has never been found to occur in an American election, it does present a valid point when dealing with election fraud: If there is any fraud to be found in an election, it will be on the hands of the candidates, not the voters. There has been little to no evidence found of voter fraud in American elections in recent years.

Meanwhile, there has been past proof of candidates finding inventive ways to come up with more votes in their favor. Political candidates are always looking for that edge they need to seal a victory. Sometimes the moral gray area may be crossed. Need I remind you of the lovely scandal known as Watergate that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation?

So, in essence, I do not necessarily disagree with the institution of voter IDs, but they must be handled in the right way so that no American is left feeling excluded from the polls. Now, the idea of placing these voter identification laws in place to prevent voter fraud is an argument that has no real substance.

The mandate of requiring voter identification isn’t a preposterous idea, but in order to make such a law morally viable, the states must make every effort to provide these to any eligible voter at no cost in order to avoid excluding Americans.