Oct. 6, 2006 – In a move voting-reform advocates say could disenfranchise millions of citizens, the House of Representatives passed a bill last month that would require citizens to present government-issued photo identification to vote, such as a driverâ€™s license. Starting in 2010, that photo ID must also prove citizenship.
Voters who do not have the documentation would be able to fill out a provisional ballot, but would have to submit identification within 48 hours of casting a vote.
Voting reform advocates say the bill is unfair to the millions of people who do not have driverâ€™s licenses or access to government documentation that prove citizenship, such as birth certificates or passports.
States would be required to provide photo identification for citizens who do not have it. But the progressive think tank Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said that provision does not remove the burden placed on voters who have not already obtained photo identification.
"While low-income citizens could supposedly obtain these voter ID cards without charge, they would still have to pay for the passport or birth certificate they would need to obtain the voter ID card," the Center said in a report surveying the people who might be affected if the bill became law.
The CBPP analyses found that 11 million citizens, almost 6 percent of the population, do not have passports or birth certificates. People of color, poor people and citizens living in rural areas are less likely to have the necessary documentation.
Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois), the billâ€™s sponsor, said in a statement, "Requiring an official ID to vote presents no greater hardship than people face performing everyday activities," such as applying for a social security card or food stamps or renting videos. Hyde reasons that "since citizens are asked to provide valid identification to prevent fraud for these reasons, it should not be too difficult to produce IDs to guard against fraud in the electoral system."
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, however, called voter fraud "extremely rare" in a report. The Center cited evidence from the 2004 presidential election in Washington State that found voter fraud occurred at the rate of .0009 percent of all votes, and in Ohio, where fraud occurred at a rate of 0.00004 percent.
The Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 now moves to the Senate for consideration.