“Who are you? Tell me who you are.” These are infamous words of former United States Congressman Bob Etheridge (D-NC). You can watch the video of the incident here. The next time you head to the polls, precinct workers may, by law, require that you provide photo identification to answer former Congressman’s question. Per the News & Observer, Republican General Assemblymen strongly support requiring photo identification in order to vote in North Carolina.
The foundation of democracy is the “one person, one vote” principle. Each time voter fraud occurs, the integrity of our democratic electoral system is compromised. Requiring photo identification at the polls will surely reduce voter fraud. Those opposed to requiring photo identification say that fraud is a small, insignificant issue. Further, opponents argue that photo identification will be difficult for some citizens to obtain and will depress voter turnout.
First, any voter fraud is too much. The N&O article notes that there were only 18 confirmed cases of double-voting in North Carolina in 2008. Essentially, because 18 of those votes were illegitimate, 18 citizens who legally voted were disenfranchised because their votes were canceled out. Furthermore, successful voter fraud does not show up in the statistics. How many cases of successful fraud might there have been?
Additionally, if voters are able to get to the polls they should be able to obtain a photo ID. Sure it will be a bit of an annoyance to go through the process of obtaining photo identification; however, that should not be an excuse to compromise the integrity of elections. To prevent the appearance of a poll tax by proxy, photo identification would likely have to be provided free of charge.
Lastly, many will accuse the GOP of playing politics with the issue. Depressed turnout favors Republicans, they argue. On the other hand, does that mean that compromising the integrity of the electoral process through weak identification standards benefits Democrats? The argument here is double-edged. The integrity of our democracy is at stake and photo identification requirements should be seriously considered.