Since the last election, Texas has been in the process of putting into place stricter laws on voter identification. Proponents of this law believe that the its strict limitations are unconstitutional. Texas Governor Rick Perry stated “there were multiple cases of voter fraud in various parts of Texas,” and stressed that America needs open elections regardless of which party a candidate may belong to.
People in favor of the law believe that in order to vote one must have the proper identification. “In today’s world having a photo I.D., whether it’s to get on an airplane or whether it’s to cash a check or it’s to check a library book out, it’s pretty standard fare,” Perry continued.
The evidence of whether or not voter fraud exists begs the question of the necessity of such a law and how it will affect poor and minority voters. A recent study by News21 showed that there have been only 10 cases of voter fraud in the United States since 2000.
Critics in opposition to the law, however, argue that voting is a right, not a privilege. They view that the voter ID laws are a ploy from Republicans to sway the vote to be less influenced by young and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic. Republicans have argued that this is the only way to keep the polls fair and America democratic.
Since university issued IDs will no longer be one of the acceptable forms of voter identification, this law has spurred a lot of opposition with students.
“I don’t agree with the voter ID laws,” says UTSA political science senior Emil Calhoun.
In Texas, a government-issued ID can be obtained at any Department of Public Safety office for free. However, many students-namely out of state students, students that are not US citizens, and less fortunate students-could essentially lose the right to vote in Texas.
“It means more disenfranchised voters. Democracy will erode through the ‘good intentions’ of politicians. The poll tax was plan A. Voter ID is plan B, to strip our rights. Why would an undocumented immigrant risk deportation by going to a ballot box? We are so concerned with restricting immigrants and building fences that we border the ballot box and impede our own citizens,” Calhoun stated.
The turnout rate for young people in 2008 was the largest since 18-year-olds were first allowed to vote in 1972. Many are waiting to see if the youth of America have the same kind of impact on the 2012 election now that there have been changes to voting laws across the country.
“I think it’s not only doing a disservice to the US citizens that want to vote, but to the country itself,” says UTSA business marketing senior Hannah Heinze.
Those in opposition to the law say that students who are eligible to vote but do not have a government-issued ID are being denied rights guaranteed by the 15th Amendment.
“We shouldn’t be trying to make voting more difficult. It limits people from their rights. All this law is doing is getting less people to vote,” Heinze said.
Sixteen states are being affected by stricter voting laws, and some students are less than happy about it. Students at the University of Central Florida, for example, has begun protesting the laws by, among other things, placing ironing boards around campus as a symbol that they were “pressing the issue.”
The Justice Department objected to the Texas voter ID law on the grounds that it would affect minorities and the poor. In July, the State of Texas sued the Justice Department for putting a hold on these laws because they feel it is the only way to restrict voter fraud. The Justice Department will look at this case next month and make a verdict on whether or not Texas will be able to enforce this new law.
However, some students see this from a completely different angle and believe the law would not impact the election’s turnout. “It’s about information. If we get people to understand that voting is essential, then they would more than surely get an ID to vote,” stated UTSA biology sophomore Gabriel Yanez.
Yanez argues that “people that are new to the country, people in poverty-I know that they can’t gain access to information about politics-but that’s what we need to work on. If we want to be a true democracy then every US citizen should be able to access education about each political party and then vote. That’s how we can positively influence our country. Whether or not the law is passed, we still need to become more informed.”