Appendix:Voter ID Laws and other Measures on a National Level
There are various forms of Voter ID laws on the books in 30 of the 50 states, and most have been passed since 2006. After the Tea Party victories in 2010, state legislatures passed the most stringent versions of these laws, in some cases making it necessary for poor people without drivers’ licenses to secure their birth certificates (some of the rural poor and elderly do not have birth certificates because they were not born in a hospital). These people then have to pay for a special state photo ID they can use to register and vote. Proponents use the claim that these laws are necessary to stop “massive voter fraud.”
All objective accounts, however, indicate that voter fraud is not large, and is perhaps miniscule. The New York Times reported in 2007 that there had been 120 cases of all types of voter fraud filed by the U.S. Justice Department during the previous five years. Another news organization found ten voter impersonation cases (the kind voter ID is supposed to stop) since 2000. By contrast, these new laws—prior to their challenge in the courts—could have made it harder for more than five million eligible voters, according to a 2011 study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.
Some of the most restrictive state laws have been blocked by the courts. In Texas, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, for example, judges have effectively enjoined these laws and prevented their enforcement. Nevertheless, there have been problems in many states.
In Florida, for example, the legislature enacted a statute in 2011 that punished groups like the League of Women Voters if they failed to turn in new voter registration forms within 48 hours of completion—a virtual impossibility for a completely voluntary organization such as the League. The law also shortened the number of days available for early voting and took other stringent measures. After its passage, the League of Women Voters withdrew from registering new voters in that state.
Finally, in May 2012, a Federal District Court Judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the law’s most onerous provisions; and then in August issued a permanent injunction against it.
During the same period, Florida Governor Scott—a Tea Party favorite—announced that Florida officials would “purge” the voting rolls of those they deemed as ineligible to vote. Scott initially developed a list of 180,000 people he wanted off the rolls. Election supervisors narrowed that to 2,600 names and then claimed to verify only 207 voters who were not citizens.
Scott’s actions were challenged by several citizen groups as well as the U.S. Justice Department, which filed suit against the state, arguing that it was violating Voting Act requirements. Finally, the Secretary of State relented; voters were restored to the rolls, and Gov. Scott backed down.
In Kansas, birthers inside and outside of the state are working to keep the President off the ballot entirely. Birthers deny that President Obama is a natural-born citizen and is thus constitutionally unable to run for president. One such person, Joe Montgomery, who works for Kansas State University as a communications director, filed a complaint with the state’s Objections Board. He had his claim that Obama was not born in the USA adjudicated, and it failed. He dropped the matter.
Continuing the nonsense, Californian OrlyTaitz, often known as the “Birther Queen,” is suing the state and the Objection Board over the matter, and will have a date with a Kansas district judge on 3 October. According to Democratic State Representative Ann Mah, the affair has made the Republican-dominated state a “laughing stock.”
Voting participation levels are already relatively low. The USA ranks 120th in the world, with a vote to registration ratio of 66.5%, according to data collected by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. That is lower than Australia at 94.5%, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Jamaica, and only slightly higher than Benin and Mexico. When considering voter turnout in relationship to the age-eligible population, the numbers are even lower, at 38%. That is lower than Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and Korea.
Obviously, the problem is low numbers of registered voters, who often do not vote even when registered.