I was disappointed to learn that the Maine Legislature had once again voted down requiring the presentation of a photo ID in order to vote.
Opponents of voter ID legislation claim that it’s unnecessary as Maine’s ballots are already secure and there is no voter fraud. I say that this is a fallacy, as there are no measures currently in place to protect the sanctity of the ballot. You cannot claim there is no voter fraud when there are no ways to detect voter fraud.
While I’m no longer a registered voter in Maine, I was until 2013. While I mostly voted via an absentee ballot (going to college in Rhode Island made it difficult to get to the polls in person), the few times I voted in person displayed a shocking lack of security. In Scarborough, the voting procedure went as follows:
- Walk up to table.
- Inform poll worker of name. (Hi, I’m Christine Rousselle!)
- Affirm that you live at the address provided. (“____ Drive?” “Yep!”)
- Receive ballot.
- Leave polling location.
It doesn’t take a genius to discern that this is not the most secure procedure. Short of the poll worker actually knowing the person voting (or knowing the person who they claim to be), there are no security measures to ensure that the person voting is the correct person. Call me crazy, but I don’t trust a person’s conscience as the only protection of the ballot box.
A person needs a photo ID for many things, including: gaining employment, driving, buying alcohol, buying tobacco, boarding an airplane, leaving the country, applying for Medicaid, purchasing cold medicine, opening a bank account, using a credit card, taking the SAT or GED, purchasing a cell phone, or to see or buy an R-rated movie. While none of these are Constitutional rights, that’s beyond the point. It’s nearly impossible to exist in today’s society without a photo ID. They’re ubiquitous. A person is going to need one at some point.
Opponents of voter ID laws are quick to claim that young voters and older voters are likely to be shut out of the polls. Given that 96 percent of Maine high school juniors were able to produce an acceptable photo ID for the SAT the state mandates they take, I’m confident in their ability to have a photo ID to vote once they turn 18. And while one legislator said that she didn’t want a “World War II veteran” to be denied the right to vote, if the aforementioned veteran were enrolled in the VA health care system, he would be in possession of a photo ID through that program.
In order to register to vote in Maine, a person must include their driver’s license number or state ID number. Both of these are forms of photo ID. If a person is lacking either document, a person can substitute a copy of a utility bill, bank statement, or government document with a person’s name and address. In order to rent or buy property, a person has to present a photo ID. In order to open a bank account, a person must have a photo ID. The only reason someone would be opposed to mandating that voters show an ID at the polls would be that they are looking to commit fraud. Period.
Furthermore, lawsuits against other states with voter ID laws have been dismissed due to the fact that not a single person came forward to say that they had been denied the right to vote due to the lack of an ID. Additionally, despite fears of voter suppression due to ID requirements, there has been zero empirical evidence of this. In Georgia, for example, minority voter turnout increased following passage of the law.
While generally Republicans have been the main promoters of voter ID laws, the state of Rhode Island is a notable exception. Rhode Island’s General Assembly is nearly entirely Democrats, yet they passed a voter ID bill in 2011. Rep. Anastasia Williams, a Democrat who describes herself as being Panamanian-American and African-American, testified that her vote and her daughter’s vote was stolen in 2006. When Williams arrived at her polling location to vote, she was informed that she had already voted. Williams also said that she witnessed a person vote multiple times while dressed in different outfits.
I now live and vote in Virginia, which requires a photo ID in order to vote. On Election Day, I walked the half mile from my apartment building to my polling location, got in line, stated my name, presented my driver’s license to the poll worker, who then confirmed that the person on the license was the same person holding it, and then gave me a ballot. The whole exercise in democracy took all of ten minutes from entering the polling location until I had completed voting. Nobody was hindered by the ID requirement, as there was plenty of warning given to voters before Election Day.
A photo ID in Maine costs five dollars, and opens up a person to many wonderful things, including employment, alcohol, air travel, cold medicine, hunting licenses, and firearm ownership. I’d recommend that anyone lacking an ID invest in one, even if they’re not required to vote. It’s the 21st century. Come join it.