Beneath the headlines about mommy wars and dogs on cars, a real debate is brewing about voter identification laws in the 2012 election.
Both sides are fighting to frame the debate: Is election fraud rampant, or are Republicans colluding in a state-by-state strategy to suppress college students, women voters, and minorities from showing up at the polls? While that’s the subject of much debate, there’s no question that the laws are sweeping the nation. Different versions have passed in Pennsylvania, been struck down by the Department of Justice in South Carolina, and by the state court this week in Wisconsin.
Most recently, an Arizona Ninth Circuit court Tuesday upheld a provision of state law that required voters to show a photo ID, but struck down the part requiring proof of citizenship. Plaintiffs in the case argued the law evokes fear in voters and amounts to a “poll tax,” by requiring an official photo ID, which the state charges to issue. Meanwhile, supporters of voter ID laws say they’re necessary to protect ballot security. Both sides have been vocal and the stakes are high, perhaps even as high as seeing whether 5 million voters make it to the polls, according to one study released last fall by the Brennan Center.
What fundamental issues are at stake in this debate?
Richard Hasen, professor specializing in election law, UC Irvine; he’s also author of the forthcoming book "The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown"
Keesha Gaskin, senior counsel, Democracy Program, Brennan Center
John Fund, columnist for the National Review and author of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy"