President Obama might be facing another bump on his road to re-election, thanks to restrictive voter registration laws being enacted across the country. According to various reports, a dozen Republican-led states have passed strict laws that range from requiring certain types of identification to vote to shortening early voting periods. Opponents of these laws claim they will make it harder for young people, minorities and the elderly to vote.
On the surface, these laws look easy enough to follow, but upon closer examination their real problems become clear. For instance, in Pennsylvania voters have a narrow list of identification options from which to choose. According to Philly.com, voter identification includes driver’s licenses, military IDs, U.S. passports, government employee IDs and student IDs from Pennsylvania colleges.
Each form has to have an expiration date and photo. Based on these requirements, I would not be able to vote if Georgia had the same law—I do not drive, have a passport or a military or government position. I am a student but my ID doesn’t have an expiration date and, according to the article, only 19 colleges make the cut.
The youth vote was coveted during the 2008 presidential election and was a major factor in Obama’s victory. Restricting this demographic could be a huge blow to his campaign and allow leeway for his Republican challenger to make gains. This is slightly alarming to me, since there are so many hot button issues as of late that could affect me and many people my age, including healthcare and economic reform. As a woman, this worries me even more because the Republican Party does not have the best track record regarding women’s issues. There is a lot at stake here.
Proponents of these laws claim they are trying to maintain the integrity of the voting process by eliminating voter fraud. Senator Thomas Garrett (R) of Virginia believes voter registration laws are the only way to prevent fraud, especially from convicted felons. “The only way to catch them is through the voter ID bill — should they come in claiming to be actually who they are,” Garrett said to WSLS Virginia.
Voting fraud is definitely something to consider, however it should not be at the expense of innocent voters—at the expense of democracy itself. Lawmakers should find a different way to combat this issue that doesn’t include disenfranchising large groups of people. If these laws keep getting passed, we might as well go back to the days of poll taxes and guessing the number of gumballs in a pickle jar.