Voter ID – Require It or Not?
As I was filling out my early-voting ballot today, I reviewed all of my accumulated vote-this-way advertising in an attempt to discern where my interests might lie, and for whom I should vote. I also read the voter-information publications from Arizona, Pima County, and a couple of other jurisdictions, as they had not only statements from all the candidates for office, but also information on the various propositions/initiatives, as well as the nonpartisan races (such as the keep-this-judge? elections). Something in all that printed matter made me think about voter identification, and whether it should be required or not.
I honestly hadn’t given this topic a whole lot of thought before, because I’ve never had a problem producing whatever ID might be required (I’ve always had a valid driver’s license), and since I’ve been on the permanent early-voter list for years, I haven’t even had to do that. I just have to put my completed ballot in the inner white envelope, sign it, and then put the white envelope in the yellow mailing envelope and send it in. No ID required at all, any more.
That in itself is a big thing: Voter ID isn’t necessarily required to vote (it isn’t in Arizona – I voted without showing any ID to anyone); it’s typically required to vote at the polling booth. I guess if you’ve proven once that you’re really you, so you can get on the voter mailing list, you’re good to go – as long as you keep voting. I don’t know what the process is to get back in their good graces if you miss an election. But now that I *am* in their good graces, how do they know it’s really me? I might have died or moved or simply ceased to vote or my ballot might be stolen, and then someone could, theoretically, come along and vote as if he/she were me (forging most signatures isn’t that hard to do).
But let’s turn this around and say that I want to defraud the system and vote multiple times. How might I do that?
I can certainly vote as myself in my home precinct. If I know someone else in the precinct, I could possibly vote as them, too. I could also vote as myself and/or others in different precincts. But is that an easy thing? No. Would it materially affect an election? No. At least, not if it was just me. Could enough people to affect an election be persuaded to do the same thing? Doubtful. (A much easier way to affect an election is for bad guys to stuff, or steal, or otherwise tamper with, ballot boxes after the voting has ended.)
But those are my opinions. I wanted some sort of confirmation / refutation of what I thought, so I searched the Internet with the phrase “voter fraud study” and then looked at some of the resulting links.
The first one I looked at was an article about a claim that over a million people committed voter fraud in 2012. The article, on a service run by Politifact.com, looked at the claim and rated it False. In their words, “Morris said that the large number [35,500] of North Carolina voters matched with records in other states was proof that over 1 million people voted twice in the 2012 election. While Morris admittedly was extrapolating from the North Carolina data, his conclusion is flawed on several fronts.
“The head of North Carolina’s board of elections did not claim that even the closest matches on name, birth date and Social Security numbers was conclusive evidence. She said more investigation was needed. The track record of the Interstate Crosscheck project shows that a tiny fraction of all potential matches represents any kind of voting fraud. In Kansas, out of more than 850,000 votes cast, only 14 names were recommended for prosecution and the Kansas Secretary of State reported no convictions.”
The second one I looked at was an article on a study by a Loyola professor, who found 31 (thirty-one) credible instances of voter fraud out of more than a billion (1,000,000,000) votes cast over a period of years. And some of these likely wouldn’t have been caught by the kinds of voter ID laws that are commonly talked about.
Third, I checked this article from the New York Times, which included information about a five-year investigation by “the Bush  Administration” that turned up no evidence of any organized effort to commit voter fraud.
Even Forbes and The Wall Street Journal say it’s practically nonexistent. The WSJ article’s last word on the subject: “One rare point of agreement among most experts: Absentee-ballot fraud is a far bigger problem than voter-impersonation fraud—about 50 times more common, says News21—and voter-ID laws won’t stop it. [emphasis mine]”
There are many other results to my search, but I didn’t see anything that looked like it might come to the conclusion that voter fraud *did* exist.
So I conclude that the answer to the question I posed in the title – require voter ID or not? – is *not*. I do want to stipulate one caveat here, however: This only applies to requiring an ID at the polls when voting. I’m not speaking about the registration process at all; only voting. The registration process is (in my view) completely separate, although it is often conflated with the voting process.