The Burden of Voter ID Laws

16 01 2008

Most of the coverage thus far of the challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law has centered around the partisan dimension of the dispute rather than simply voting rights as such. Of course, there have been some notable exceptions. For instance, the New York Times recently published a very informative article on how voters were turned away at the polls in the Hoosier state for failing to have a photo ID. Some others were told they could only fill out a provisional ballot and then had to return to the county clerk’s office to verify their identity before having their ballot counted. Each of the people featured in the article legitimately voted prior elections. Clearly, the state of Indiana singled out a form of identification that many people, including regular voters, do not possess.

Indiana law also states that in order to cast a regular ballot a valid photo ID should also have the current address of the voter too. This does not make sense for homeless people who want to vote or for those who live in trailers and can adversely affect poor people who tend to move often.

But even obtaining the government issued form of identification can be difficult. To get a state issued ID such as a driver’s license, for instance, one must have a copy of a birth certificate in addition to some other form of identification, which can be challenging in and of itself for many poor and elderly people who might have been born in another state or not in an hospital at all.

Interestingly enough, the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly bars imposing of poll taxes on citizens exercising their right to vote. It states:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Considering how birth certificates can cost as much as $38 dollars or more and how time consuming it is to get these IDs it is not a stretch to call these new voter photo ID laws as one federal judge did modern day poll tax. It amounts to charging a fee in order to vote in addition to levying a tax on a voter’s time. And it is in this sense that the law should be seen as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote.

During her presentation at a American Constitutional Society briefing, civil rights activist Julie Fernandes attacks the specious logic behind the voting fraud agenda.

Watch it.

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