As legal arguments over Texas’ controversial photo ID law continue, it is important to remember that the debate about voter ID stretches far beyond the courtroom into voting booths across the country. Newly passed voter ID laws in numerous states could have a dramatic affect this November leaving legitimate votes uncounted.
Pennsylvania’s new photo ID law will be in place this November and will have an immediate impact on voters. As Pennsylvania politicians make clear their true intentions in passing a photo ID law, namely disenfranchising democratic leaning voters so that Mitt Romney can win the state, reports have shown that up to 758,000 might not have proper identification to vote at the polls. That number accounts for 9% of Pennsylvania’s voters.
While less strict than strict photo ID laws, voter ID laws such as Virginia’s recently passed but yet to be enacted law stand to disenfranchise voters in a different way. By allowing voters to return to show proof of ID after Election Day, laws such as Virginia’s are sometimes assumed to offer a good compromise between strict photo ID laws that some demand and a complete lack of identification that others prefer. While it is assumed that this will result in votes being counted, it appears that this is not the case.
States with similar laws, such as Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee have reported hundreds of ballots not being counted as a result of their stricter ID laws. While some may view this as a victory under the belief that these are illegitimate votes being tossed, the fact remains that legitimate voters are having their votes thrown out. Some of these voters are known personally by election officials and yet due to a lack of ID their vote will not count.
Whether it is through the false belief that their vote can’t make a difference since the race has already been “decided,” or obstacles in returning to provide ID to officials, these stricter ID laws have resulted in voters forgoing the chance to have their vote counted.
This November hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters across the country stand to lose their right to vote because of voter ID laws. We should be encouraging voter participation instead of stifling turnout for partisan reasons. In a country that can have their leader decided by 537 votes, every vote should count.