By Janeece Woodson, Staff Writer
There is good news and bad news.
The good news is that our ways of judging others has changed in positive ways. When my grandparents were young, people were marked by their dialect, the fabric of their clothing, and their literacy. Although many still jump to conclusions about others based on dialects and accents, changes in our culture have softened the blow. Whether it is due to increased literacy rates or multiculturalism, it is becoming harder to exclude certain groups of people based on mere trivialities.
The bad news is that we will always need a system of weeding people out from processes like voting. This bad news is why that little plastic card in your wallet matters so much.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled certain parts of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Thereafter, states have remained polarized on how far to take laws that restrict voting based on government-issued identification. States such as Illinois support the idea that voting should be as accessible and sensibly legislated as possible for every citizen. They have enacted same-day voting registration, which allows busy adults (or procrastinators) a chance to cast a ballot, and others allow online voting to make the process even simpler. Some officials in these states have even advocated for election day to become a federally recognized holiday, so that no one has to take time off work to vote. Long gone are the days when voting required that you pass a rigorous physical exam (i.e. demonstrate white skin and a lack of baby-carrying capabilities) and a written exam that would weed out the majority of the black and Latino population. States implementing these progressive policies are acting quickly to ensure we never revert to those old ways.
But a few policies are holding out. Many states along the Bible Belt—such as Alabama and Georgia—have made photo identification mandatory to cast a ballot. In such states, voters must bring a valid driver’s license, military ID, or state-issued card of some kind. In most states, voter id laws prohibit the use of student ids as valid forms of identification. Even if they are issued by state universities. This seems to only be used to prohibit students from voting. These laws are based on several hundred cases of purported fraud in recent elections. It is true that, in one year, almost a thousand “deceased” individuals cast their votes in a single election. Obviously, voting fraud is a serious issue, but there are ways to combat it that would not leave out certain demographics of people.
It is undeniable that these laws are indeed leaving certain groups out. I have personally come to realize that every time I pull out my driver’s license, military dependent card, or university ID, I take its meaning for granted. For some, it is a difficult and strenuous task to attain these privileges. They may not be able to afford the fees for a driver’s license, or they may have lost their ID for various reasons. I do not even need to elaborate on how difficult it can be to get into college and be granted an ID card. If some people do not even have a home address, why would we also expect them to have photo identification?
The ID laws may deter fraudulent voters, but they also limit the demographic of voters which, in my opinion, is unconstitutional. California has created a system in which a person who does not have an easily traceable number attached to them (a driver’s license or social security number) can be granted a voting ID number usable only by that person. This policy is fairly recent, so it is too soon to estimate how effective it is in preventing voting fraud. However, it seems a logical step that does not ask too much of citizens, and is thus a step in the right direction.