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  • Writer's picturePeter Serefine

Voter ID - by my friend Jamil

The Republican perspective is that voters should be required to present valid ID in order to cast a vote. That this will reduce voter fraud and create a better representation of the populace. The Democratic counter argument is that requiring voter ID disenfranchises people who don't have valid ID and who may not be able to afford, or easily obtain valid ID.

This essay will explore both sides of the argument.

Since this is a constitutional issue, it's important to start with the exact wording of the constitutional articles and amendments involved. Specifically, the 14th,15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments.

14th Amendment, Section 1: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

14th Amendment, Section 2: Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of

a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

15th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

19th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

24th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or

Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

26th Amendment: The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Taken as a whole, the amendments above simply say any citizen who has not been found guilty of “participation in rebellion, or other crimes”, who is over 18, regardless of race, gender, age, or

income, has the right to cast a vote.

With the constitutional text out of the way, it becomes clear that the argument boils down to the 26th Amendment and whether or not obtaining a valid ID constitutes a poll tax.

Quite simply, any requirement involving a specific cost, regardless of the amount, in order to cast a ballot, is a poll tax.

The case law couldn't be any clearer, in 1965 in Harman v. Forssenius, when the State of Virginia tried to enact a law that allowed residents to avoid a poll tax by obtaining a “certificate of residency” the courts ruled unanimously:

2. The certificate of residence requirement is a material requirement imposed upon those who refuse to surrender their constitutional right to vote in federal elections without paying a poll tax

and thus constitutes an abridgment of the right to vote in violation of the Twenty-fourth Amendment. Pp. 538-544.

(a) The poll tax is abolished absolutely as a prerequisite to voting in federal elections, and no equivalent or milder substitute may be imposed. P. 542.

(b) The statutory scheme may not be saved on the ground that the certificate of residence requirement is a necessary method of proving residence, for constitutional deprivations may not

be justified by some remote administrative benefit to the State. Pp. 542-544.

I think it's important to cite both case law and the U.S. Constituion in the voter ID debate, because the left and the right both make specious arguments in defense of their own positions.

On the left, a common refrain is that voter fraud is rare and virtually impossible to sway an election. This argument is garbage. An election should be above reproach and even a single instance of

voter fraud is too much. Anything we can do, as a nation, to protect our election process is vital to our security. If requiring ID for voting will improve the security of our election process, then it's something

the left should support as much as the right.

On the right, a common refrain is that getting an ID card is easy and it's necessary to do a multitude of other activities like board an airplane or rent a car. This argument, too, is garbage. There is not only no constitutional protection of rights to boarding an airplane or renting a car, but the degree to how difficult or easy it is to get an ID is immaterial. Any material cost required by the state, in order to cast a vote, is a poll tax and constitutionally doomed.

Noticeably absent from this essay is talk about demographics e.g. Age, race, and income of those with or without voting ID. While these are important issues when discussing motivations of voter

ID laws, I don't believe demographics should factor into whether or not a national a voter ID law is


Voter ID, like universal background checks for firearm purchases and marijuana legalization, has overwhelming public support - 79% for voter ID, 86% support for universal background checks, and 61% for Marijuana legalization, but it is part politics that prevents us from enacting common sense, universally supported legislation that would improve the strength, security, and well-being of this


I consider myself among the 79% of Americans who think voter ID is necessary to protect our election process. I would support any legislation that required voter ID without running afoul of the 24th

Amendment. I am a Democrat, and I believe my Republican friends and neighbors would agree with this sentiment.

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