Voteridentificationlawsharmourdemocracy This new wave of voter restrictions not only includes photo ID laws but also proof of citizenship, reducing early and absentee ballot voting, ending same-day voter registration, and restrictions to restoring voting rights after incarceration.
2011 was a historic year for people across the world wanting more access to a democratic and open political process. Movements such as the Arab Spring inspired people to take action and have a say in their political future, and the Occupy Wall Street movement is a manifestation of that desire here in the United States. Yet instead of making it easier for U.S. citizens to participate in our democratic process, there are strong and misguided efforts to make it more difficult.
States across the country have enacted or are in the process of enacting a range of laws and policies making it harder to vote. This new wave of voter restrictions not only includes photo ID laws but also proof of citizenship, reducing early and absentee ballot voting, ending same-day voter registration, and restrictions to restoring voting rights after incarceration.
According to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, more than 5 million voters could be affected by these laws and, as we explain below, they are an expensive way to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.
Proponents of voter restrictions measures argue that “voter fraud” is rampant. But the facts do not bear this out.
For instance, a five-year investigation by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush found just 86 instances of improper voting from 2002 to 2005. A Brennan Center report released in 2007, "The Truth About Fraud," found that allegations of voting fraud are often wholly inaccurate or heavily exaggerated. According to the report’s authors, voter impersonation—the type of voter fraud targeted by current voter ID legislation—is “more rare than death by lightning.” And in Virginia, which is one of the latest states very close to passing voter ID legislation, proponents could not cite one single example of voter fraud in the state.
The fact is that most states already require voters to show ID at the polls. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 established federal voter ID requirements and requires ID at the polls from all first-time voters who register by mail who fail to provide an ID at the time of registration. There are also harsh penalties for those who, for example, try to impersonate a voter or for those who erroneously fill out voter registration cards.
The Advancement Project estimates that states contemplating a photo ID requirement could face up to $20 million or more in expenses.
There are also many legal
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