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Guest Post: Voter ID Laws

Heather Heidelbaugh is a shareholder in the Litigation Services Group of Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir, P.C. Her practice primarily focuses on complex litigation, products liability, intellectual property and election law.

Ms. Heidelbaugh received her B.A. in Economics and Political Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she also earned her J.D. She was a member of the Order of Barristers, the winner of the law school’s National Moot Court competition, a member and finalist of the Regional Moot Court Team and elected Best Oral Advocate.

Guest Post is a occasional feature at the watercooler… if you’d like to post a piece please email it to me, and I will put post it. Same rules apply as to the cooler contributors. You have to be a real person, no screen names… and it’s got to be watercooler topical. – Ed


A woman who was registered to vote in two states came forward to vote in November 2006, but poll workers would not permit her to proceed. Why? Voter ID. This individual tried to use her Florida driver’s license to vote in Indiana. This same woman had presented herself as a resident in Florida to receive a homestead exemption, and now claimed to be a resident of another state by seeking to vote in Indiana. Thanks to Indiana’s voter ID law, an attempt at voter fraud was averted.

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita said, “This shows that the Indiana ID law worked here.” Voter ID prevents voting by individuals registered in more than one state as well as from impersonation, voting under fictitious names and voting by non-citizens.

Unfortunately, this incident of attempted voter fraud in Indiana is not an isolated occurrence. 17 percent of individuals in an American University study had seen or heard of fraud at their polling places while 60 percent had seen or heard of fraud at other polling places.

Voter ID laws have not been shown to actually prevent legitimate voters from casting ballots. Take for instance, Crawford v.Marion County Election Board, the challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law. The woman who was registered to vote in Florida and Indiana was actually a plaintiff in that case. When that case came before the Seventh Circuit, the Court emphasized that petitioners were unable to introduce evidence of “a single, individual Indiana resident who will be unable to vote as a result of [the voter ID law] or who will have his or her right to voteunduly burdened by its requirements.” Opponents do not have the evidence of disenfranchisement nationwide either. Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere’s study of voting across the country in the 2006 election found that almost no one is prevented from voting because of voter ID requirements.

Requiring a photo ID is not a burden that will stop anyone from voting. American University’s Center for Democracy and Election Management’s survey of the states with voter ID laws found that more than 99% of all voters already possess the proper photo identification required by voter ID laws. In Indiana specifically, only 0.3% of voters did not have the requisite ID. As long as procedures are in place to ensure that these voters can acquire IDs, each voter should be able to be confident they will be able to vote if they have a right to do so.
While voter ID laws are not burdensome, they are also considerably beneficial. The United States Supreme Court, in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, found that voter ID serves a variety of state interests, such as deterrence and detection of voter fraud, participating in a nationwide effort to improve and modernize election procedures and preventing voter fraud in part that results from maladministration of voter registration rolls that still include a significant number of voters that no longer live in the state or are deceased.

As the 2005 bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform noted, when photo identification is needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings and cash checks, shouldn’t elections deserve similar protections? This commission, chaired by former President Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, issued areport that declared, “The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.” Voter ID helps ensure that citizens’ most basic right is preserved.

Like Indiana, Pennsylvania can better ensure the integrity of elections by passing voter ID legislation. Representative Metcalfe’s bill (HB 934) would require that photographic proof of identification be presented when voting. Representative Cruz’s bill (HB 647) would ensure that election boards keep photos to identify registered voters. Both bills would help prevent voter fraud and protect the integrity of elections in the eyes of the voting electorate.

June 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm
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