Requiring citizens to present identification before voting is an idea broadly popular with citizens. It’s also an idea that continues to withstand legal challenges.
The latest judicial victory was handed down by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, who recently issued a 485-page ruling upholding a 2013 North Carolina election-law overhaul that included voter ID requirements.
While the North Carolina law included several reforms not relevant to Oklahoma, Schroeder’s decision regarding the voter ID requirement is relevant. Oklahoma is among 33 states that require some form of identification before citizens can vote in person.
Not all state voter ID laws are the same, and Oklahoma’s is considered fairly lenient. North Carolina has actually shifted closer to Oklahoma in that regard, because that state’s lawmakers added a “reasonable impediment” option in 2015 to allow voters who could not produce an ID the option of casting a provisional ballot.
Yet the evidence presented in the North Carolina trial mostly undermined the claims of voter ID critics who argue the law effectively disenfranchises poor and minority voters.
Several individuals who testified about voter ID challenges were actually dealing with problems getting Social Security documents. In other words, their problems were generated by federal law and federal bureaucracy, not North Carolina’s voter ID law.
Schroeder also noted some of those individuals were still able to vote.
Those who lack a driver’s license in North Carolina can get a free state voter ID card. Since the beginning of January 2016, approximately 2,170 applicants had sought those cards and 2,139 had been issued.
Even evidence presented by one plaintiffs’ expert, who attempted to match the names of North Carolina registered voters to names in various databases of acceptable IDs, did little to show voter ID laws are unduly restrictive.
That analysis found 96.5 percent of all North Carolina registrants had a qualifying ID, and 97.4 percent of all active voters had an ID. So the overwhelming majority of people faced no problem complying with voter ID. That’s not surprising. How many people live in this day and age without a form of identification?
And even when a name wasn’t matched with a valid ID, Schroeder noted that did not necessarily mean individuals didn’t have one. Among 172,098 North Carolina residents whose names didn’t match those on existing lists of valid IDs, nearly 5,000 reported having an ID when sent a questionnaire by mail.
The idea that people who don’t have an ID are somehow civic-minded voters was also undermined. Of the North Carolina residents identified as potentially lacking ID, it was determined 39.5 percent had never voted.
Schroeder noted the evidence suggested “only a fraction of the small fraction of individuals who lack qualifying ID will cast a ballot under the reasonable impediment exception. This is not because these voters will be deterred by the ID requirement; it is because they did not vote at a significant rate before the requirement existed, even in high turnout elections.”
The bottom line is that even opponents of voter ID laws struggle to find valid cases where eligible people are prevented from voting as a result of these laws.
As many have noted, if it’s reasonable to impose an ID law to purchase allergy medicine, surely the same method can be used to preserve electoral integrity.
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