Lloyd Waters: Want to vote? Show your mug

August 26, 2012|By LLOYD WATERS

When I worked at the Big House, all visitors were required to show photo identification before entry into the prison. When I am stopped by a policeman, I am required to submit my driver’s license with photo for identification. When I go to an unfamiliar bank, I must provide identification before my check is cashed. And there are many other examples where a photo identification is required.

But should a photo identification be required before voting?

Since 2003, eight states have initiated laws requiring a photo ID before voting.

In Pennsylvania, a decision was made recently that could possibly influence the upcoming presidential election. Specifically, a new voter identification law has been developed and passed in that state.

All voters in Pennsylvania will be required to provide photo identification before casting a vote for their candidate in November.

Critics of this new law, which was signed by Gov. Corbett in March, argue that requiring a photo identification would place an unnecessary burden on the elderly, minorities, the poor and college students to vote.

It is estimated that this new requirement might affect some 750,000 potential voters in Pennsylvania and tilt the 20 electoral votes of that state toward presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Democrats and the AARP are opposing such laws and the American Civil Liberties Union is filing appeals in the matter.

The Department of Justice is following this case closely.

Obviously, there are many examples as provided in the first paragraph where photo identification is required in our society.

The integrity of our current voter system would certainly be enhanced by verifying the identity of all voters, but would it seriously hamper the elderly, minorities, poor and college students?


A 2004 Rutgers University study suggested that when states require a photo identification there was a reduction in voting numbers among minorities. Whether this study is accurate in its results is debatable.

I wish I could say with some certainty that our system is completely void of fraudulent voter activity, but then again when I think about some of the diminishing ethical behavior of our political parties and organized labor, I cannot conclude that for sure.

I can see where a law of this nature in the beginning might be a disadvantage for some, but our country already requires many identification requirements.

Opponents will argue that, since voting is a very important part of our democratic process, we should not make it more difficult to vote by applying obstacles such as requiring a photo ID.

Still others believe identification for all voters is a trespass of individual liberty and will lead to a police state where government interference with everyday activities will be increased.

Efforts have been under way for years to develop a National Identity Card by the federal government on the pretense that the implementation of this program would enhance our nation’s overall security.

Although it appears that states have the right to implement the requirement to present photo identification before voting, this issue is unlikely to go away completely.

Laws passed this year in Pennsylvania and Georgia are apt to create some confusion for folks at the polls in our presidential election in just two months.

In these states, if you show up to vote and don’t have photo identification, I suspect you will be turned away from the polls.

Considering the number of voters in Pennsylvania who might not possess photo identification, that factor alone might sway the outcome.

Although I do not normally support or encourage any additional government regulations that tend to diminish one’s liberties, requiring photo identification to vote is a controversial issue.

Whether or not the states requiring a photo have it right or not, if you happen to live in Pennsylvania, be sure to smile and show your mug before entering the voting booth.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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