Forget life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is no more fundamental right in the United States than the right to vote. That is because our representative government — of the people, by the people and for the people — is the foundation of every other basic right. And that is why the voter identification proposal about to come before the Pennsylvania Senate is a bad idea in its current form.
The nationwide push for voter identification over the past decade has been led almost entirely by Republicans. Since 2003, 15 states have passed voter ID laws. Five more states have strengthened existing laws to require a photo ID. The goal, of course, is unarguable: that only duly registered U.S. citizens vote in each election.
But while the goal sounds lofty and nonpartisan, the reality is not. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, some 12 percent of Americans do not have a government-issued photo ID. However, that’s not the real story. The percentage is higher for seniors, people of color, people with disabilities and low-income voters because they are most likely to lack the underlying documentation — the ID you need to get an ID. The voters most likely to lack those IDs tend to vote Democratic.