We are witnessing political confusion. We see states deal with changing the very essence of Democracy—the election process, primaries or caucuses, year and a half political campaigns, changing rules on political funding, new voting machines and new rules about who can vote. Some are technological advances, some are evolving political practices, and some seem to be maneuvering for political advantage.
Within last two weeks, two cases appeared that makes voting more difficult and one will make it easier to register to vote. One is the Wisconsin’s photo ID law, will not be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court, meaning it is now the law of the state. The second is a new transportation law in Ohio which can disenfranchise over 100,000 voters. Oregon has passed a law that expands who can vote.
Wisconsin–Without thinking much about it, many would ask, “What’s so hard about getting a picture ID?” The most common form of government accepted picture ID is a Driver’s License. Not everybody wants, or needs a driver’s license. How much does it cost for a Driver’s License in Wisconsin? If you do not have you’ll have to start from scratch with an “Instruction Permit” ($35), and then the “Original Probationary License” ($28).
In Wisconsin you could just apply for an Identification Card, which would be $28. But, if you do, you will need your “Proof of Name and date of birth” (a certified birth certificate, or a valid passport, or a certificate of naturalization) and you will need to go through the “Document Verification Petition Process”. You will also need your Proof of Residency, your Proof of U.S. Citizenship (or legal permanent resident status, legal conditional resident status or legal temporary visitor status) and you social security number.
To get a Driver’s License you will have to get to the Department of Motor Vehicles office. There is at least one in each county. But, we are talking about Wisconsin, not New York. We expect DMV’s to be open five days a week. No, not in Wisconsin. Eighteen of their 62 counties have DMV centers that are open five days a week (from 8:30-4:45). The other counties’ DMV Centers are open two days a week, either Monday & Wednesday, or Tuesday & Thursday. There are also six scattered “Special Rules” DMV centers that are open one day a month or less. Critics of the new voter regulations feel that the DMV centers should expand their times to include evenings and week-end opportunity to acquire the needed photo identification cards. Since Identity Cards are required, there should be no cost to the applicant, or the payments would be an illegal poll tax.
In Ohio, the state legislature decided that in order for out-of-state College Students to vote, they need to have Ohio Driver Licenses and have their cars registered in Ohio. Those will cost $75 or more. That is being viewed as a Poll Tax, which, of course is illegal. There are over 116,000 out-of-state students attending Ohio colleges.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures thirty-four states require voters to show some form if identification in order to vote. Fifteen require photo identification, and sixteen accept non-photo identification (such as a checking account statement, utility bill, etc.). Twenty states and the District of Columbia do not require documents to vote. (New York is one of them.) All states except one have methods for the citizens without the proper identification to vote on a provisional ballot, which will be counted if the Election Commissioners deem they are eligible to vote. Some states require a consultation with a Judge or County Clerk. North Dakota, which does not require photo identification, will not let you vote at all if you do not have the required identification; they do not offer a provisional ballot. The National Conference of State Legislatures site has an Interactive Map that indicates each State’s Voting requirements. The site has a treasure throve of information about voting.
In New York State, you provide identification information when you register to vote. It is either a DMV Number, or your social security number, (If you did neither, then you are required to have identification.) and you sign your name. At the Polling Site you are asked to provide your home address and sign your name in the Poll Book. The system works. If your name is not in the Poll Book, and it has been determined that you are at the correct Polling Site, you can still vote.
You may be interested in viewing the New York State Voter Regulation Form.
I don’t know how the 19 other states that do not require election day identification operate, but I feel our system works well. It is not may not suit everybody, but it works well.
Oregon, one of three states that allows their voters to cast their ballot by mail, has a law that makes every citizen who has an Oregon Driver’s License automatically registered to vote. If a resident does not want to be registered, they would have to inform the Secretary of State of their wishes. More information about this unique legislation can be found here.
Voting is the keystone of our system of government. Legal citizens should be able to vote. Our goal should be to encourage them, not making it more difficult.