In 2012, a number of states have attempted to pass election laws requiring voters to show a photo ID when voting. The laws are all backed by Republicans and have been passed in Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and South Carolina as an attempt to prevent voter fraud. However, all of them have faced opposition in the courts with varying results.
A September 8-12 nationwide poll conducted by CBS News/New York Times showed that 70% of voters supported “efforts to require voters to show a photo identification card to vote” while 28% opposed voter ID measures. The poll shows that 76% of Independents, 94% of Republicans and 48% of Democrats support voter ID laws. Recent efforts to enact voter ID laws have become a political hot potato and have polarized elected Republicans and Democrats on an issue that at one time found bipartisan support as currently seen in polling numbers among voters.
According to data from the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), 27 states have passed voter ID laws that will be used in the 2012 election with another 6 states passing voter ID laws that will be used starting in 2013 pending final approval from either a court or state legislature.
Pennsylvania voters will technically be asked to show a photo ID on Election Day, but they won’t be turned away if they don’t have one. The court essentially ruled that it won’t be enforced until after the election. Wisconsin’s voter ID law was ruled unconstitutional in March by a Circuit Court Judge and again by another judge in July.
Newly passed voter ID laws in New Hampshire and Virginia were given pre-clearance by the Department of Justice and will be in effect this November.
Due to the Voting Rights Act, Texas and South Carolina need approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of federal judges in Washington if they want to change election procedures. A federal panel unanimously ruled against the Texas law at the end of August due to a provision in the enacted legislation that would have potentially imposed too high of a financial requirement for some voters.
The ruling on South Carolina’s law was similar to the one in Pennsylvania. The bipartisan, three judge panel in Washington upheld the law and established it as constitutional, saying there was nothing inherently discriminatory in the law. However, voters won’t be asked to show a photo ID this election. The law won’t officially be fully enforced until next election cycle.
The issue of having voters present photo identification to register to vote and to actually vote will continue at statehouses across the country over the next few years. The likelihood that additional cases will head to the U.S. Supreme Court remains high and look for the Court to attempt to provide clarity on one of the hottest issues in election matters.