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Commentary: Voter ID Laws Can Disenfranchise

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, January 6, 2012

Five states, most with Republican majorities in the Legislature, passed new laws in 2011 requiring voter identification at the polls.

Such laws usually require voters to present some sort of government-issued photo ID before they can cast their ballot. It all sounds benign. After all, you have to provide ID to cash a check, get on a plane - even to enter some federal buildings. Why not to vote? 

Here's why. Many citizens who are eligible to vote don't have government-issued photo IDs. The most common form of ID is a drivers' license. Many citizens don't drive, and a disproportionate number of those are poor and minorities, typically reliable Democratic voters.

Lawmakers who sponsor voter ID laws always claim they are trying to protect against fraud, but even the Supreme Court, which ruled such laws are constitutional, agreed that in-person voter fraud - where someone pretends to someone they are not - is virtually non-existent.  As more people vote by mail, such fraud becomes even more unlikely.

The country is headed into a bruising presidential election. It should not be decided by how many people are kept away from the polls. And in practice, that's what voter ID laws do.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.

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