For weeks, members of the Trump administration have made claims that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election, in turn, costing President Donald Trump the popular vote to former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Despite these continuously made statements, no white paper, research study, or factual evidence have been released supporting the claims of widespread voter fraud in the United States.
Unfounded claims of voter fraud fuel voter suppression by tactics such as voter ID laws. The efforts to sign voter ID bills into laws have increased in recent years. With this increase in efforts, research has been conducted in an attempt to understand what effect voter ID laws have on the public opinion of voter fraud.
In 2008, the Harvard Law Review found that 13% of survey respondents nationwide believed that voter fraud was a common practice. However, living in states with strict voter ID laws did nothing to ease the concerns about election votes being casted illegally. Of those respondents living in one of four states with voter ID laws, 14% still believed that voter fraud was a common practice. Voter ID laws do not dispel the myth of voter fraud. Despite this finding, supporters have continued in their labors of turning these bills into law.
Voter ID laws are specific to each state. North Carolina has one of the most restrictive voter ID laws. Signed into law in 2013, North Carolina’s voter law requires all voters to have a NC drivers license or learner permit, a NC special identification card for non-drivers, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID or Veterans ID card, or an enrollment card from a federally or NC recognized tribe. Student IDs are not accepted. In addition to these ID requirements, same-day registration and teenage pre-registration have been banned.
Although those supporting voter ID laws similar to North Carolina’s law argue that it decreases voter fraud, research shows that the more stricter voter ID laws have a negative impact on the voter turnout of racial and ethnic minorities. These laws disproportionately affect college students and transgender people.
Voter ID laws are supposedly put into place to address issues of voter fraudulence and solve the problem of voter fraud. However, if widespread voter fraud is not only a myth, but a concept that has been disproven, then what problem have voter ID laws been put into place to solve? To protect the rights of voters, it is imperative to accurately identify concerns and proven fraudulences of voting and election processes in order to find a solution that protects all citizens’ democracy.