Restrictive voter ID laws are being challenged across the country. Courts in Wisconsin and North Carolina have struck down strict requirements for what can be used as a valid form of identification at the polls. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative courts in the country, also ruled that Texas’ voter ID requirements were discriminatory and ordered a lower court to come up with a provision to the law ameliorating the problem in time for the November election.
Protecting the integrity of our elections is vital to maintaining a healthy democracy. However, individual voter fraud at the polls is nearly non-existent, as the courts all noted in their decisions. A new report from FairVote shows that voter ID laws have had minimal impact on nationwide turnout but a disproportionate effect in both major parties.
FairVote does not oppose all forms of photo ID laws, but believes that such laws should be crafted so that eligible voters are never denied a fair chance to participate. The courts in these recent rulings all found that the voter ID laws in question had a discriminatory impact on who can vote, raising concerns about the impact on turnout among low-income and minority voters. In the case of the North Carolina law, the judges even found a so-called “smoking gun” which pointed to a discriminatory intent from the drafters of the law.
The varying voter ID laws and court challenges across the country can leave many voters confused as to what the rules really are on Election Day. Voting rights advocates should look into a more comprehensive solution: a right to vote amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Amending the Constitution to grant an explicit right to vote would guarantee the voting rights of every citizen of voting age, ensure that every vote is counted correctly, and defend against attempts to enfranchise ineligible voters and disenfranchise eligible voters. Through making this change, we can live up to our highest ideals for American democracy.