States Impose Strict Voter ID Laws That May Influence November U.S. Elections: Will They Combat Voter Fraud Or Favor Republicans?

Prior to the November presidential election, 17 states are expected to implement new voting restrictions.

The states involved include “swing states” like Wisconsin, as well as Texas and North Carolina, which have a significant number of African American and Latino voters.

A 15-judge panel, with the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, is set to examine a case regarding the validity of stringent Voter ID laws in the state of Texas.

As the Washington Post reports, experts are saying this development will prevent hundreds of thousands of people who do not have photo identification cards from voting. The most likely to be affected would be senior citizens, low income earners, Hispanics, and African Americans. Supporters of this initiative say it is a good way to combat voter fraud.

Abbie Kamin, lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center who works with Texans and assists them with the proper identification to vote, said, “a lot of people don’t realize what it takes to obtain an ID without the proper identification and papers … many people will give up and not even bother trying to vote.”

A Texas court revealed that over 608,470 registered voters had no valid identification required for voting. It is not all identification that is accepted in voting circles. For example, people cannot vote with state-issued university IDs, but they can vote with concealed-to-carry handgun licenses.

After Obama’s election, a spike of Republican-dominated state legislatures passed laws mandating the new change. “Voters who present ID constantly in their day-to-day lives will clearly not have a problem with it,” according to Hans von Spakovsky of the Election Law Reform Initiative. He went on to explain that it was mandatory and basic common-sense to present authenticated identification to ensure election integrity and that voting was free and fair. Opponents say the laws are set up to frustrate anyone who wants to vote for a democratic candidate.

A former Republican staffer, Todd Allbaugh, testifying at a federal trial over Wisconsin’s voter ID law, said GOP senators were excited over the idea that the state’s 2011 voter-ID law would keep Democrats, particularly minorities in the Milwaukee area, from voting and give Republicans an edge to win at the polls. “They were politically frothing at the mouth,” Allbaugh said.

A recent voter-ID study conducted by political scientists from the University of California scrutinized U.S. election turnout between 2008 and 2012 and noticed a substantial reduction in minority turnout because of the stringent voter ID laws. The study concluded that by establishing stiffer photo ID laws, states could whittle down the influence of voters from the left and dramatically tilt the political balance.

The controversial issue that photo IDs are difficult to obtain has become a recurring debate in many cases across the country, where civil rights lawyers and political interest groups are challenging the new laws. In fact, three Texas courts have passed judgments calling for a stop to the voter ID laws. However, the state governor has refused to back down, promising to keep the law in full effect in November. The ID laws have also been hit with a slew of lawsuits in Virginia and North Carolina. Election experts are predicting a tough battle at the Supreme Courts as U.S elections draw near.

In 2012, a Washington federal court confirmed that the stress of obtaining a state voter-ID certificate would count greatly against those living below a reasonable income level, particularly as they would have to travel as far as 250 miles just to process their identification documents. David S. Tatel, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, said, “that law will almost certainly have a retrogressive effect – it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor and racial minorities.”

[Image via Shutterstock/Burlingham]