Ministers and civil rights organizations came out against the Pennsylvania voter ID law, saying it suppresses black and Latino votes. (Photo/AP Images )

Opinion: Voter ID is offensive, unjust and un-American

Testifying on behalf of the ACLU in a suit challenging Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law, political scientist Matt Barreto said it would be “almost impossible” for state officials to guarantee that all registered voters who went to the polls in November would be able to vote.  In fact, Barreto estimated  over one million registered voters lack the photo ID that Pennsylvania law requires.

Ten states have strict laws requiring voters to show photo identification in order to vote.  Supporters of Voter ID laws say they protect against fraud, while critics say these laws suppress the votes of minorities and the poor.  There are myriad reasons to oppose the intent, design, and effect of these laws.  Voter ID laws accomplish nothing beyond making it harder for eligible citizens to vote.

For starters, our country does not have a voter fraud problem.  In 2011, the Republican National Lawyers Association listed 400 voter fraud prosecutions over the last decade.  That works out to less than one case per state per year.  A five-year investigation by the Bush Department of Justice found virtually no evidence of voter fraud.  In Pennsylvania, the state government concedes there has not been any voter fraud in the state.  None.

So why do we need these laws?  Because Republican lawmakers see them as a way to depress turnout among African-Americans, Hispanics, and lower-income voters who traditionally lean Democratic.  Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently bragged that his state’s Voter ID law “will enable Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”  He may be right.  States with Voter ID laws account for 127 Electoral College votes, nearly half of the 270 needed for the Presidency.  In a close election, Voter ID laws could well determine who ends up in the White House.

Some people point out that we need a photo ID for all sorts of things.  In April, Republican Senator Marco Rubio noted that we need identification to board a plane, or to rent sports equipment.   “What’s the big deal?” he wondered about obtaining photo ID to vote.  “What is the big deal?”

The big deal is that boarding a plane or renting sports equipment is not a Constitutional right.  Voting is.

And for many people, getting the proper photo ID is problematic. New York University’s Brennan Center estimates that over half a million Americans face challenges to obtaining proper photo IDs.  11 percent of voting-age citizens lack a current, government-issued photo ID.  Among Hispanics, the figure is higher – 16 percent.  This is especially worrisome considering that Hispanics already lag in civic participation.

Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania are uniquely burdened by the Voter ID law.  In 2010, to cut down on identity theft, Puerto Rico invalidated all previously issued birth certificates (Puerto Ricans were required to apply for new ones with enhanced security features).  For Puerto Ricans in Pennsylvania, who account for about half of the state’s Hispanic population, this means they have to go through two sets of bureaucratic hurdles to obtain ID for voting, one in Puerto Rico, and another in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett once said, “99 percent of Pennsylvania voters already have acceptable photo IDs.”  The state’s own figures later proved him wrong.  Yet whether the figure is one percent or higher, why is any disenfranchisement of eligible voters acceptable?

It is troubling that Republicans have devoted so much time to passing and defending laws designed to reduce voter turnout.  The right to vote is enshrined in our Constitution for a reason.  That thousands of eligible voters may find themselves unable to vote this November due to partisan wrangling is offensive, unjust, and un-American.

Opinion: Voter ID is offensive, unjust and un American raulreyescrop politics NBC Latino News

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.


  1. edgarcia says:

    to enter this country legally you need an ID like a passport, to get credit you need to show ID, to board a plane you need ID, to drive a car you need a license which is an ID of where you live. What is wrong with that? When i voted in last election someone voted for me, i could not vote! i asked who checked me off on the registration list and they could not tell me, so someone came to vote and told them my name and DOB and they did not check ID! What happen to responsibilities in this country? if you do not have ID and the government allows this then we will have a bigger issue with identity fraud. By the way i am a American Latino, and i believe that the people that complain about this are just ignorant and the politicians are going along with this game to get the vote. Voting in this country is a privilege to american citizens not illegal residents, according to state laws a drivers license is also considered a privilege. When my parents came to this country they even said to me that it was a privilege to be an american and fortunate for me to be born here.

  2. Cuca Lopez says:

    This is very offensive,are the parties so UN sure of their stance politically,they fear votes are duplicated or fraudulent. What a shame the Land of the free is so insecure.

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