Strict voting laws are unconstitutional, hide behind a myth of 'voter fraud'

A lot of our good friends in politics like to reference the sovereignty of the Constitution to purport their own ideologies. But one thing I don't hear often defended is our constitutional right to vote. 

In four amendments of The Constitution, — the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th — the same phrase: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged," is used. 

Which is why states that require strict voter identifications laws to prove citizenship like Alabama and Georgia are violating the Constitution.  

Strict voting laws are not only unconstitutional, they also disenfranchise minorities, the poor, the elderly and the disabled. There are legitimate voters who are essentially silenced under these laws, and it is unconscionable to me that someone's right should be suppressed under these laws. And what is the number one defense behind these laws? To prevent voter fraud.

But there have been multiple studies that have shown that voter fraud is really an overhyped myth that entices the attention of the press and politicians.

According to a Brenan Center for Justice study which was authored by Loyola Law School professor, Justin Levitt, allegations of voter fraud have been proven to be exaggerated and recording inaccuracies are often put under the umbrella of voter fraud.

“There are many such problems that are improperly lumped under the umbrella of ‘voter fraud.’ Some result from technological glitches, whether sinister or benign; for example, voting machines may record inaccurate tallies due to fraud, user error, or technical malfunction,” according to the study.

The bigger issue here is that there are more cases of eligible voters not voting than there are actual cases of voter fraud. According to 2014 data from the the United States Elections Project, for every one case of voter fraud in Arizona, there are more than 500,000 eligible voters who do not vote.

This realization is extremely daunting when you consider that 500,000 is more than five ASUs worth of people. The easy argument to make is that these people are too lazy to visit the polls or don’t care enough to vote. I think that’s a shallow argument to make when you think about Arizona voter laws and when you consider the fact that acquiring identification is actually a hassle for some people.

To register to vote in Arizona, you must present your Arizona driver’s license or fill in your driver's license number when registering online. If you’re like me and don’t have an Arizona driver’s license, a copy of your birth certificate or U.S. Passport is acceptable but you must mail in your registration or visit the recorder’s office with the correct documents. You can find a full list of accepted forms of identification here.

After mailing in my registration form three times, my information was never processed. It wasn’t until I visited the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office with my registration and a copy of my passport before I could be certain that I was registered to vote in the primaries.

It baffled me that my multiple attempts weren’t processed. When I called the recorder’s office and asked what could have happened, they told me everything I had done seemed to be right, but there could have been a number of reasons why my registration was rejected — I could have filled in my address wrong or perhaps misspelled my own name.

If any of these cases were true, why couldn’t the recorder's office have called me to tell they got my registration form, but couldn’t process it? My phone number was listed on the form and the phone does work both ways. In my mind, it seems logical that the state — to best serve their constituents — would make a concerted effort to ensure all eligible voters are registered properly.

While this is only anecdotal evidence, I was humbled by how much of a hassle it was for me. If it was this difficult for me to vote in Arizona, how must it be for people who aren’t nearly as privileged as I am? Not everyone has a passport or easy access to their birth certificate or other documents of identification. Not everyone has a car or lives close enough to public transportation to make it to their local polling location. 

Sometimes when life gets in the way, registration and early voting deadlines will pass. In a world where we depend so much on technology in our every day lives, I would think we would have already improved our method of voting rather than suppressing our own citizens constitutional rights. 

Related Links:

The theory behind voter ID laws is a case of citizenship, not racism.

Here's how to register to vote for your state's presidential primary


Reach the columnist at kgrega@asu.edu or follow @KelcieGrega on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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