• Voter ID Laws Impact Election Day Turnout
Lisa J. Danetz and Rachael V. Cobb discuss voting rights.

10/17/2012

The concept of the right to vote being under attack has been an issue for more than 100 years, and a number of states recently have passed laws that would require eligible voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to cast their ballots.

However, strict photo ID laws have had a profound negative effect on the number of voters that turn out on Election Day, according to panelists discussing “Election 2012: Is the Right to Vote Under Attack.”

“States with the highest [voter ID] requirements have lower participation rates than states with weak requirements,” said Professor Rachael V. Cobb, chair of Suffolk’s Government Department.

Voting rights and campaign finance lawyer Lisa J. Danetz took a similar view, saying: “We have disappointingly low voting turnout rates. The freedom to vote is something we need to vigorously promote and protect.”

Integrity of elections

While Danetz noted that misrepresenting oneself can lead to fraudulent votes, current law already considers the integrity of elections.

“There isn’t a high level of documentation of the number of fraudulent voters,” she said.

However, having a government-issued photo ID is seen as an essential part of one’s life, particularly in the United States, said solo practitioner Oliver Kozlowski.

“Having an ID helps in so many other ways than just voting,” he said.

Because most people have easy access to a photo ID, they don’t necessarily think about what would happen if one were not accessible to them, according to moderator Deborah Becker of WBUR.

Equal access

The panel also addressed equal access, with Cobb, citing a study showing that African Americans, Asians, and Latinos were asked for IDs more than Caucasians.

“Elections in general are very close nowadays. Because it’s so close, marginal voters really matter,” said Cobb.

The panelists suggested that strict photo ID laws could hamper those who actually are eligible to vote from being able to do so.

“A few votes do make a difference,” said Kozlowski.

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