The Missouri House of Representatives gave first round approval to a controversial voter identification bill that would require voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls. If passed, voters would have to approve the change through an upcoming vote. This is perfectly reasonable — it would significantly prevent voter fraud without undue discrimination.
Currently, acceptable forms of ID for registering to vote include a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other federal government document. Valid identification issued by the state of Missouri, an agency of the state or local election authority, a Missouri institution of higher education, or a driver’s license or state identification card issued by another state can also serve as voter identification. Out of these forms of IDs, the majority include a photo.
The bill is receiving resistance from those who argue that the bill is racist and suppresses minorities who don’t have an ID because it’s too expensive or difficult to obtain because they don’t drive. Opponents of the bill contend it disproportionately affects elderly, minority and low-income groups.
Democrats are even comparing the bill to a poll tax with which states imposed voting fees to discourage black and poor white people from voting in the past. Because getting an ID can cost money, many who are opposing the bill are declaring it to be a financial barrier. But just how expensive is getting a photo ID in Missouri? The fee for a driver’s license is either $10 or $20, depending on the expiration of the license and its class. The fee for a non-driver ID card is $11, according to www.dmv.org. For Missourians, obtaining an ID through the DMV generally is inexpensive.
Many would still argue that cost isn’t the problem and finding transportation for those pursuing an ID is problematic. However, I find it absurd. Difficulty coordinating transportation once every three years to renew an ID shouldn’t be a deal breaker for this bill.
When I was working at JC Penney during high school, we were instructed to ask for photo identification when a customer paid with a credit card. We were not allowed to process a transaction unless an ID was produced. Rarely did we run into that issue, though. Most people happily produced an ID and many people even thanked us for asking. Why are people suddenly crying foul when being asked for an ID during an important process like voting? They seemed pretty happy about it when we asked them for a photo ID to save them from losing money.
These issues aside, some say voter ID laws are superfluous. Why do you need a solution when there is no great problem? News21, a national investigative reporting project, found that since 2000, there have only been 2,068 alleged voter fraud cases, 10 of which were found to be in-person fraud, according to www.votingrights.news21.com. Those 10 cases represent times where a photo ID could have prevented fraudulent voting. However, a photo ID law is not limited to impersonation. It would deter wrongful voters from registering in more than one state or using phony names.
Besides, there are other situations in which having a photo ID can be useful. For example, buying alcoholic beverages requires a license proving proper age. I find it difficult to believe all the voters who are hypothetically supposed to be affected by this bill never purchase alcohol. Do all of these affected groups also never fly on a plane?
Missourians need to view the bill from the perspective of who it protects, not who it theoretically limits. The bill does not selectively protect only a certain group of people. It protects people of all genders and races. We have enough corruption in politics as is. A law that protects voting, the cornerstone of democracy, is important. I’m not claiming voter fraud to be a widespread problem, but if we can eliminate a problem — no matter the size — we must. Integrity at the polls must be assured.