chapter  5
46 Pages

Voter Identification Laws: The Controversy over Voter Fraud

ByLorraine C. Minnite

With the approach of the 2012 presidential election, once obscure issues of election administration continued to fuel what one legal scholar has called the “voting wars” of the past decade (Hasen, 2012). At the top of the list is the highly partisan issue of voter identification (voter ID) at the polls.1 The Tea Party victories of 2010 emboldened Republicans to make a strong push for more stringent identification rules in statehouses across the country. In 2011 alone, thirty-four states introduced and eight states passed legislation revising or imposing new documentary ID requirements.2 With some important exceptions that have either delayed the full implementation of these new laws (due to litigation or U.S. Justice Department pre-clearance procedures) or that grant meaningful exceptions to the rules,3 thirty-three states now require voters to present identity documents to vote, and more than half of these (eighteen) require the ID to display a photograph of the voter.4 In nearly all cases in which states have adopted the most restrictive forms of photo ID laws,5 the Republican Party controlled the legislative and executive branches of state government, over-rode vetoes, or sponsored state ballot initiatives to bypass Democratic opposition. Republican lawmakers were unified in their advocacy of these laws, while Democrats opposed them.