Time for real election reform

The recent Supreme Court decision should prompt more voting reform in Congress.

After the 2000 debacle in Florida – as good a motivation as we’ll ever have to undertake serious election reform – it seems our nation took a look in the mirror and instead resolved to fix problems that don’t even exist. Such is the case with the Indiana law requiring voters to show photo identification, upheld last week by a 6-3 vote in the Supreme Court.

We do not believe that asking voters to provide identification is, on its face, too much of a burden to place on voters. Everything from buying a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack, to getting on an airplane or behind the wheel of a car requires identification. We comply with those requirements without complaint.

But this Indiana law is really a solution in search of a problem. Supporters of the law cite voter fraud as the reason for its necessity, but there has been hardly any evidence for its existence. The one kind of voter fraud that has been documented, and only rarely, has been through mail-in absentee ballots, and the Indiana law and court’s ruling pointedly leave that problem unaddressed. The Indiana Legislature’s vote on this issue is illuminative. On a party-line vote, Republicans voted for it and Democrats against. Poor people, minorities and the elderly are statistically the least likely groups to have identification, and are all more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. What’s being sold as a way for lawmakers to ensure the integrity of our democracy is really a thinly veiled attempt to take away enough likely Democratic voters to swing a close election. And driver’s licenses, ID cards, and birth certificates all cost money, in effect serving the same purpose as a poll tax, forcing people to hand over cash in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Many states will no doubt follow Indiana and chase this chimera of a problem down a path that leads to disenfranchisement. However, Congress can strike back for voter’s rights and enact real voting reform, starting with national same-day voter registration. We are proud to say such a bill has been introduced by 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison in the House. Many credit Minnesota’s nation-leading voter turnout with this provision, and it would do a great deal to combat the partisan damage done to voting rights by the state of Indiana and our nation’s highest court.