The process of electing representatives in the U.S. has always been a contentious one. At its core there are political parties and candidates vying for power. However, the politics of setting election procedures and policy is perhaps even more contentious than the elections themselves. The debate about the integrity of the election process and how to balance it against the basic democratic principle of expanding voter participation is not new; the Founders deliberated over the same concerns we discuss today. The question is, what trade-offs do we consent to in order to protect the integrity of the election process while expanding suffrage? The basis for integrity is honesty and fairness. If we believe that our election processes are fair and honest, we can trust their results. However, if we perceive these processes to be fraught with fraudulent practices or participants we conclude that the results are wrong and an affront to our democratic ideals. Some pundits and elected officials have focused on voter fraud as a real threat, pointing out that thousands of Americans have lost faith in the election process as a result. In this context, voter fraud usually refers to registering voters who are ineligible such as noncitizens, voting “from the grave,” or one person voting multiple times or in multiple jurisdictions (sometimes through absentee ballots).
Voter ID laws have been proposed as a solution. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states considered voter ID legislation in 2011. This year, legislation was introduced in 32 states, including new voter ID proposals in 14 states, proposals to strengthen existing voter ID laws in 10 states, and bills in 10 states to amend existing laws (some states considered more than one measure). In the case of voter ID in Texas, a 2011 law — which originated as Senate Bill 14 by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay — requires that voters provide photo identification before casting a ballot.
After disputing the issue for eight months, the Department of Justice denied Texas’ request for “pre-clearance.” Because Texas is subject to Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice or the federal courts have the authority to review laws that would affect voter participation. In response, back in January, Texas sued the department to have its voter ID law implemented, claiming that other states with similar laws had been allowed to implement their legislation. A U.S. district court heard the case last week in Washington. A number of election law experts have concluded, based on research, that accusations regarding widespread fraud are unjustified.
Full Article: Political scientist makes case against Texas voter ID law.