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The voter ID ‘problem’

03/12/2014

In 2011, the Alabama Legislature passed a law to require you to show photo ID at the polls before you can vote. This year, that law goes into effect and it comes at a heavy price.

This week, Alabama Secretary of State—and JSU Board of Trustees chairman--Jim Bennett said that records at the Department of Public Safety show that about 20 percent (500,000) of Alabama’s 2.5 million registered voters do not have a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID.

This is a problem.

This means that approximately 500,000 registered voters in the State of Alabama could be denied the right to vote at the polls this year!

Luckily, there are a handful of other forms of ID that will be permissible. Those include: a federal ID, passport, state-issued ID, military ID, government employee ID, an Alabama public/private college ID, or an ID from a state college in another state. So, we students should be safe to vote—we’ll see.

So what about those without these forms of ID? Secretary Bennett estimates they account for about 10 percent of the voting population, or 250,000 Alabamians.

Bennett said each county board of registrars will have free photo voter IDs available in their offices beginning this week for those who do not have one. However, to retrieve one of the free voter IDs, one must physically go to their county courthouse and provide documents showing full legal name, date of birth and address.

So what about homebound individuals? People who cannot drive? Bennett says that beginning in March there will be vans visiting all 67 counties to issue voter IDs. The schedule of these vans is yet to be determined—we’ll see how that goes, too.

Oh, I forgot to mention the Secretary of State’s office announced they will be spending around $800,000 of our tax dollars to implement this new law.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, according to advocates of the new law, it’s to help fight against voter impersonation.

However, a recent News21 analysis of all 50 states’ elections records showed that since 2000 there have been only 10 cases of voter impersonation nation-wide. In a country of 146 million registered voters that equates to 1 case in every 15 million prospective voters.

In Alabama, we only have 2.5 million prospective voters. So how many voter impersonation cases does that equate to? Almost none.

Yet, the Alabama Legislature finds it extremely necessary that it spend almost $1 million to fight against this conceived notion that voter impersonation is happening in every election across the state. Alas, the facts once again stand against our beloved legislators.

No one disagrees that voter impersonation is a terrible thing. Of course it is—if and when it happens. However, the number of otherwise eligible voters that will be disenfranchised because of this new law far outweighs the number of voter impersonation cases that will be prevented, and that’s a problem—an $800,000 problem, to be exact.

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