The History of Voter ID Laws Defeating Voter Suppression

by January 31, 2014 0 comments

EDUCATE, ORGANIZE AND MOBILIZE: Voter ID laws require voters to present in most instances, some type of state issued photo identification in order to vote.  It is important to note that most voter ID legislation is coming from Republican controlled states and being justified as necessary to address voter fraud.  To date, as shown in the Pennsylvania case, the evidence presented proves that among other things voter fraud is rare or non-existent. This week we’ll look at the laws in several states as examples of how these laws came about and are being received in courts and in the court of public opinion.  I believe that the best Internet site for a concise overview of voter ID in the United States is one of the sources I’ve used and relied upon for this article. John Holt

JOHN TRAVIS HOLTFollowing a trial in the summer of 2013 and a six month delay, Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley struck down Pennsylvania's voter ID law as violative of the constitutional rights of state voters on Jan 17, 2014. Required IDs were only available through 71 PennDOT Drivers Licensing Centers across the state. Five of the 71 DLCs are located in Philadelphia, nine counties have no DLCs at all, and DLCs are open only one day per week in nine counties and two days per week in thirteen counties. The Pennsylvania Department of State provided too little access, no financial support to providing IDs to those without access, and no alternatives to obtaining the required IDs. Judge McGinley found that this leaves about half of Pennsylvania without DLCs for five days a week, imposing a significant barrier to obtaining Pennsylvania's "free ID".  Photo IDs are not required to vote in PA. 

Pennsylvania’s recent court decision represents the latest court action that opponents of voter ID are hoping will become the decision reached by other courts that are hearing challenges to voter ID, including the courts of jurisdiction over North Carolina.  See this week’s front page story for additional information.

According to several sources, the State of Virginia passed the first voter ID law in 1999.  However, in that same year, a Virginia Supreme Court panel issued a ruling that effectively killed a program that would have required voters in two Northern Virginia counties and eight other localities to present identification before voting in the Nov. 2, 1999 elections.

In the aftermath of the 2000 election, where George W. Bush narrowly won Florida by 537 votes, the American public and lawmakers became more receptive to measures against voter fraud. In 2002, President Bush signed the  "Help America Vote Act" into law, which required all first-time voters in federal elections to show photo or non-photo ID upon either registration or arrival at the polling place.  The Federal requirements of the Help America Vote Act imposes some requirement on states enacting voter suppression laws, but by no means are they adequate protection from aggressive Republican efforts.  

The Indiana voter ID law has historical significance.  Indiana passed a law in 2005 requiring a photo ID be shown by all voters before casting ballots.  Civil rights groups in Indiana launched a lawsuit, Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that reached the Supreme Court in 2008. The Court ruled that the law was constitutional, paving the way for expanded laws in other states.   As anticipated, the Republican controlled states have responded and numerous voter ID laws.  In June 2013, when the Supreme Court declared pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the voter ID legislation became much more suppressive as in North Carolina and Texas.  I anticipate that in legislatures where Republican are in control they will continue to pass legislation that makes access to the ballot more difficult and undermine American democracy. 

Voters in Minnesota rejected a voter ID proposal on the 2012 general election ballot by a margin of 54-46%.  It is the only such ballot defeat for a voter ID law in the country.

Additionally, is necessary to understand that voter ID is not the biggest impediment to free and fair elections, but it is the crown jewel that masks the many other election law changes that take place that the public rarely hears about.  In North Carolina, our campaign to defeat voter suppression is committed to educating the public to the many aspects of voter suppression.

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Lastly, I continue to call readers attention to the Koch and corporate financed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  It is the source of model legislation being adopted by and introduced in right wing legislatures around the country.  Stand your ground legislation and voter suppression legislation is two notable examples of what they are promoting but by no means all.

GDN covers news that is vital to unrepresented and underserved communities we need your financial support to help us remain viable.

Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on voter suppression.  To join the campaign to defeat voter suppression please “Like” and follow us at, “Share” our articles, and your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website  Also, to promote the campaign to defeat voter suppression, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow the above-referenced recommendations. Additionally, please follow us on Twitter at @yourrighttovote.John Holt


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