Third Party & Independents Archives

Don't Expect The Help America Vote Act To Do Much Good: Part Two

ID Requirements Hurt the Soul of Expanding the Electorate

Enacted in 2002 the Help America Vote Act or HAVA was meant to strengthen the electoral process. Specifically, after the irregularities which occurred during the 2000 presidential election in Florida, HAVA was concerned with eliminating voter purges. Now nearly four years since its enactment the success of HAVA is up in the air, with its new mandated ID requirements, which are rather reasonable.

Yet, states have used these ID requirements to institute requirements that would reduce rather than expand the electorate.

Part of the Help America Vote Act contained provisions to try to stop voter fraud. The key provision included with this aim involved state’s requiring that all first time voters registering by mail provide identification. This identification requirement was one provision which all fifty states, along with the District of Columbia, were able to put in place by the deadline (20). However Congress left the exact meaning of identification open, thus allowing each state to define the term in its own way.

By instituting an ID requirement many claim that HAVA is opening the doors for states to use this as a restriction on access to the polls. While HAVA itself offers states the choice to allow its requirements for identification on first time voters registering by mail to be met in many ways, including: utility bills, government checks and bank statements, a great number of states are not stopping at that (21). Thus in essence HAVA can be seen as fueling the states fight on restrictive requirements, which would go against the purpose of expanding the electorate that is set out in HAVA itself.

By 2003, a year after HAVA was passed Alabama, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Montana furthered identification requirements to include not just first time voters but all voters (22). Today seventeen states now require some form of identification from all voters, four states require either the presentation of photo identification or the signing of an affidavit to vote and Indiana voters must show a photo ID or are only allowed to vote provisionally (23). Georgia even attempted to use the HAVA provision to force all voters to produce a state-issued photo ID in order to vote, however this requirement was overturned by the courts (24). Thus HAVA’s identification requirement in many ways worked against HAVA’s ultimate goal of expanding the electorate and can be seen as a failure, at least in part.

The HAVA inspired identification build up saw possibly its most powerful support in the bi-partisan National Commission on Federal Election Reform. The commission, headed by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of State James Baker, recommends imposing the requirement of a real ID card to vote (25). The real ID recommended by the commission would be a form of driver’s license which would include the voter’s name, birth date, photograph and social security number (26).

Many who believed HAVA was meant to expand the electorate and not put forth further restrictions, as the commissions recommendations would, see this as a form of a poll tax. Spencer Overton, a law professor at The George Washington University, who served on the commission, argued that the requirement would put an undue burden on more than nineteen million voters who would be otherwise eligible (27). Much like a driver’s license additional requirements would have to be met in order for a voter to be issued a real ID card. These requirements include producing things such as a birth certificate or proof of residence, which some argue puts an undue burden on the poor, the elderly, as well as out of state students.

The burden of this requirement would hit the elderly, people of color, the poor, and students the hardest. The AARP of Georgia argued against this recommendation stating that thirty six percent of residents over 75 do not have a driver’s license, and statistics in Wisconsin show twenty three percent of those over 65 do not have a photo ID of any kind (28). Identification requirements also often prove to be additional obstacles to the homeless, who often are unable to give a street address (29).

ID requirements also bring back the memory of the extreme racism that once existed at the polls. In late 2004 over ten thousand voters, mostly black and Hispanic, were denied access to the ballot box based on a judge’s ruling (30). The judge ruled that although the plaintiff’s had filled out the new HAVA required registration forms because they failed to either check a box to confirm their citizenship, provide a driver’s license number, or provide a social security number their registrations were invalid (31). Further racist actions were taken under the new identity requirement as officials in Missouri and Pennsylvania excessively targeted black voters over white voters for identification, and officials in New York targeted Asians to prove their eligibility to vote (32).

Part One in this series can be read at:

20. Moretti, “Voting Machine Deadlines Arrive”

21. Goldman, “Partisanship, Problems, and Promise”

22. Tobias, “HAVA or Havoc”

23. Moretti, “Voting Machine Deadlines Arrive”

24. Ibid.

25. Julianne Malveaux, “Voter ID Card Just Another Barrier,” USA Today, September 23, 2005.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. "Developments in the Law Voting and Democracy,” Harvard Law Review, 119 (4) (Feb. 2006): 1146

30. Tobias, “HAVA or Havoc”

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

Posted by Richard Rhodes at August 17, 2006 1:00 AM
Comment #176032

You cannot do much of anything w/o and ID. This complaint about IDs is more than silly; it is Pernicious. Americans trust their election process less and less. Most of this results from partisan propaganda, but there are some real instances of abuse. Voting w/o showing identification invites more abuse and certainly gives the impression of abuse.

A reasonable identity requirement will actually make voting less arbitrary. There are always complaints that poll workers are treating particular people unfairly. If EVERYONE must produce an ID, those complaints are gone.

Our system now is like boarding a plane where only some people are asked to show their tickets. In fact, there is no significant part of American culture that requires less proof of identity than voting. Do we consider it so unimportant that we do not afford it the same protection the local 7/11 demands when you buy beer with a check?

The courts will ultimately decide on the type (if any) of identification required. I hope they are sensible about it.

Anti – identity people have staked out an extreme position. It is more or less like a gun control opponent insisting people be allowed to own RPGs. The extrapolation from reasonable concern to ridiculous excess is just a leap too far.

Remember that if someone votes fraudulently it automatically disenfranchises a legitimate voter. Let’s not cheat anyone out of the right to vote and require reasonable identification.

Posted by: Jack at August 17, 2006 8:14 AM
Comment #176107

With elections as close as some we have seen, voter fraud and illegal aliens voting in our elections is no laughing matter.

Identificaiton is necessary. Those that abuse the identification process is a separate issue.

Also, with computerization, voters should receive a number (after voting) that can be matched up to their vote that would be published (anonymously) in a newspaper and/or web-sites. A lack of verification is an obvious flaw in the system, and verification would help reveal fraud.

Eventually, biometrics could also serve to verify identificaiton for voting.

Consumers Vote for Biometrics in the Battle to Beat Identity Fraud (March-2006) LONDON-Survey results launched today by Unisys, the worldwide technology services and solutions company, reveals UK consumers place most confidence in biometric technologies, such as fingerprint and eye retina recognition, to help combat the rapidly growing identity theft industry, which is now estimated to be costing UK industry GBP 1.7 billion per year.

People talk about the cost of identification systems, but what is the cost of identity theft and voter fraud ?

There are common-sense solutions, but that is unfortunately something government has very little of (if any). Of course, there are always those that say it is impossible. Well, if we all followed that mentality, then we all might as well give up, and we all should stop cutting our finger-nails too, since they just keep growing. But, admittedly, reforms of any kind are unlikely until voters, first, stop re-electing irresponsible incumbent politicians who enjoy a cu$hy 90% re-election rate.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 17, 2006 12:48 PM
Comment #176108

Automated Voting System

The conduct of elections has changed over the past 200 years. Starting with oral voting,
it has gradually moved to paper ballots, punch card ballots, Optical Machine Readable
(OMR) ballots, and now to Direct Recording Equipment (DRE). DRE’s are leading the
way and utilizes the latest in cutting edge technological advancements in the exercise
of a person’s fundamental right to vote.
AVS makes full use of proven technologies available today while still leaving plenty of
room for future improvements as technology continues on its logarithmic climb to faster,
better, smaller and cheaper computer systems.

Why do you suppose banks are interested in biometrics? Wish so much identity theft, consumers will drive the demand. What consumer is going to say “No thanks. I prefer to remain more vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.” ?

Posted by: d.a.n at August 17, 2006 12:56 PM
Comment #177066

I’d like to see a true voter reform act which would reduce the number of voters by at least 75%.
(Maybe a basic test assessing one’s grasp of constitutional principles…or even a poll tax again!)

I mean, really…try to discuss the issues with your coworkers, family and friends. My experience, (myself included for 20+ years) is that the majority of Americans, while familiar with the last 3 American Idol winners and ready to recite the upcoming NFL schedule for their favorite team, simply do not know enough about politics, current events, history, economics or liberty to actually cast that vote responsibly.
And Americans certainly have shown an increasing disregard for the rights of fellow citizens so long as legislation benefits them somehow.

There is no “RIGHT to vote”.
And most have abused the PRIVELEDGE by exchanging that vote for something they didnt earn and have no right to…some share of a government bounty plundered from the citizens via taxation.

Contrary to the moronic talking points of the MTV crowd and the pandering politicians themselves, THERE ARE WAAAAYY TOO MANY PEOPLE VOTING IN THIS COUNTRY.
(This should really get this thread going)

Posted by: Matt Goldseth at August 23, 2006 8:11 AM
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