Voter identification laws have taken a main stage in debates this year.
In a nation where voter participation is consistently very low, any restrictions on voting need to be examined carefully.
In 2006, Indiana made national news for enacting one of the first in a wave of voter identification laws.
The law requires potential voters to have a valid photo ID to cast a vote in any governmental election.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this law in 2008.
Critics argue that these laws indirectly target the elderly, young, poor and racial or ethnic minorities.
Even in states where photo identification is provided for free, one must have the proper documents to qualify.
These documents—like birth certificates and social security cards—cost around $25 in many states.
Rural voters may also have difficulty getting to offices that provide valid ID.
In other words, these laws can place strict restrictions on voting for those without valid state identification.
The problem affects a significant portion of the voting pool.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, 11 percent of the voting population does not have valid photo ID.
This includes anything from expired identification, to changing genders, to moving, depending on the law and the enforcement involved from state to state.
The solution is not to just simply allow any person who wants to vote to walk into the ballot box.
But when the restrictions might prevent legitimate voters from voting, they need to be reexamined.
In 2008, record voter turnout meant 57 percent of eligible voters went to the ballot box, the highest since 1968.
When a noteworthy number of voters is not even 60 percent, it should be this nation’s priority to make voting as convenient and accessible as possible for all citizens.
The strength of a democratic system relies on government officials’ understanding the will of the public—not just the motivated few, those who can get out of work or those who happen to have an up-to-date identification card.
States are not unreasonable in making sure all voting is done legally.
However, they should temper this goal by also making sure every citizen who wants to vote has the opportunity to do so.
If people are going to claim the political system works, they need to make certain the government is doing the best it possibly can to be inclusive for all individuals.
As the law stands, Indiana and other states seem to be focusing on only safeguarding against fraud—regardless of how real a problem it may be.
News21, the self-proclaimed Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, reported that actual voter fraud occurs only once out of every 15 million prospective voters.
In a nation of 320 million citizens, not all of whom can vote, that’s roughly 21 cases.
The actual number of voter fraud cases is smaller, due to those who are too young or have lost voting rights by being convicted of felonies.
The U.S. faces many other issues.
One of the largest that springs to mind is a consistently frustrated group of people who do not feel represented or protected by the government.
If this nation wants to attempt to address these concerns, the government needs to seriously reconsider the issue of identification restrictions on voting.