In this Nov. 6, 2012 file photo, a voter holds their voting permit and ID card at the Washington Mill Elementary School near Mount Vernon, Va. Across the...
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Voter-ID laws continue to wreak havoc

For supporters of voting rights, the traditional knock on voter-ID laws is that they’re intended to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Republican policymakers who insist on creating this new hurdle, forcing voters to show identification they never needed before to cast a ballot, argue that the laws are necessary to prevent “voter fraud,” which largely exists in their imagination.
But these barriers to the ballot box aren’t just a solution in search of a problem; they’re also a policy creating a problem. The Washington Post, for example, reported overnight on a potential voting crisis in the commonwealth of Virginia.
About 450,000 voters in Virginia may lack the proper identification needed to cast a ballot in the November midterm elections, the Virginia State Board of Elections said Thursday.
Under a state law that took effect this year, Virginia voters must present a driver’s license or some other form of photo identification at their polling stations before they cast a vote.
According to the report, 457,931 Virginia voters don’t have a driver’s license. Under the Republican-imposed law, there are acceptable alternatives that will allow a Virginian to cast a ballot – a U.S. passport, a photo ID issued by the federal government, etc. – but no one seems to have any idea how many of the 457,931 people have one of these other forms of identification. [Important update: The Washington Post now says the correct number is 457,931 voters who don’t have driver’s licenses, but “about 200,000 voters” lack the other kinds of ID alternatives.]
If they try to vote anyway, Virginia will allow them to fill out of a provisional ballot, which may or may not be counted later.
And if this problem were just affecting Virginia, it’d still be awful. But as recent news from across the country makes clear, voter-ID laws are wreaking havoc elsewhere, too.
Take Wisconsin, for example.
More than 300,000 people could be affected by the ID law, which Republican Governor Scott Walker signed in 2011. Walker is currently tied in the polls with Democrat Mary Burke, although he has a slight lead among likely voters.
Voters who plan to vote using absentee ballots must now include copies of a valid photo ID. Approximately 200 ballots have already been returned and are at risk of being invalidated if the voters don’t take that extra step.
There has never been a documented case of in-person voter fraud in the state of Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin State Journal also reported this week, “Three state agencies charged with implementing voter ID for the Nov. 4 election say they have no additional money set aside to help voters and state workers comply with the newly reinstated requirement.”
Remember, Badger State Republicans approved this law to address a problem that didn’t exist.
It’s also a problem in Texas.
As the challengers to Texas’s strict voter ID law prepared to rest their case, they presented more evidence Monday in support of the key claims they laid out last week: that a massive number of Texans lack an ID that complies with the law; that blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites to lack ID; and that getting an ID can be onerous, especially for the poor.
It’s also a problem in Kansas.
The state’s voter identification law and a poll worker who didn’t fully understand it prevented elderly residents of a Topeka care facility from voting in Tuesday’s primary election.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach confirmed Thursday that some residents of Brewster Place in southwest Topeka who showed up to a polling place there without I.D.s were turned away without being issued provisional ballots, as required by law.
There are real-world consequences when policymakers launch a war on voting.
Update: Rick Hasen reports on the latest appeal in the Wisconsin case at the 7th Circuit.