Except, that is, when Republicans want to impose tighter rules for their political benefit. A case in point is the flurry of states —six so far this year— rushing to pass laws requiring voters to bring government-issued photo IDs to polling places. All have Republican governors and GOP-controlled legislatures.
Opposing View: ID laws ensure election integrity
Supporters say this is necessary to prevent voter fraud. But the operative question is: Why, at a time of economic distress and state budget shortfalls, is this such a priority? The answer has less to do with prevention than with suppression.
In theory, there isn’t anything wrong with requiring photo IDs to vote, just as they are required to drive, board a plane or cash a check. The Constitution gives states broad latitude to run their elections. And a 2008 Supreme Court ruling upheld an ID law in Indiana, giving other states a green light for their own laws.
So states clearly can impose these requirements. The question is whether they should.
Scratch just gently beneath the surface, and these new measures appear unnecessary at best. Voter fraud is rare and consists largely of the types of actions that IDs would not correct, such as vote-buying and voter intimidation. Fraud is already kept in check by elections officials, poll watchers from both parties, and acceptance of alternatives to photo IDs, such as utility bills.
One study in Minnesota, done after an extraordinarily close Senate race in 2008, found a grand total of seven suspicious votes, out of nearly 3 million cast. No charges were filed that year. Those seven cases were exceeded by the dozen or so elderly nuns in nearby Indiana who were turned away from the polls for lack of picture IDs.