June 12, 2011

June 12, 2011 | Commentary on Rule of Law, Elections

ID Laws Ensure Election Integrity

All Americans who are eligible to vote must have the opportunity to do so. But it's equally important that their ballots are not stolen or diluted by fraudulent votes. That is one of the reasons that Americans — by an overwhelming margin, across all racial and ethnic lines — support such common-sense reform.

Voter ID can significantly defeat and deter impersonation fraud at the polls, voting under fictitious names, double-voting by individuals registered in more than one state, and voting by non-citizens.

As the Supreme Court has pointed out, "flagrant examples of such fraud … have been documented throughout this nation's history."

No one claims that this occurs in every election. But, as the Supreme Court concluded, "not only is the risk of voter fraud real," but "it could affect the outcome of a close election." It also erodes public confidence in the results.

Numerous academic studies have also shown that voter ID does not depress the turnout of minority, poor and elderly voters. Georgia and Indiana saw no decrease in the turnout of such voters in elections after their voter ID laws went into effect. All the federal and state lawsuits filed against Georgia and Indiana were thrown out. Why? Because the plaintiffs couldn't produce anyone who would be unable to vote because of the voter ID requirements.

In Georgia, the court said this failure "was particularly acute" because the plaintiffs (including the NAACP) claimed that huge numbers of Georgia voters lacked an ID. In Indiana, the court noted that "despite apocalyptic assertions of wholesale vote disenfranchisement," the plaintiffs "produced not a single piece of evidence of any identifiable registered voter who would be prevented from voting."

We are one of the world's only democracies that does not uniformly require voters to present photo ID when they vote. It is a perfectly reasonable and easily met requirement that protects the integrity of our democracy. No wonder the American people support it.

Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official and member of the Federal Election Commission, is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Hans A. von Spakovsky Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow
Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies

First appeared in USA Today