Voter ID Laws Are Bullshit

The recent kerfuffle over Trump’s “illegal voter” nonsense has predictably brought up the voter ID law controversy yet again. As a result, I have to point out one more time that voter ID laws are bullshit for a few very simple reasons. I’m not even going to get into grayer areas such as equivalency to poll taxes, or how they are discriminatory; I’m simply saying they simply do not perform the function that Republicans would have you believe. Here goes:

  1. To register to vote, in any state, one must have a valid Social Security Number (SSN). You also need an address, which will assign you to a particular precinct and polling location.
  2. Illegal immigrants obviously do not have a legitimate SSN. Legal immigrants (e.g. green card-holders) can have an SSN, but if a legal immigrant attempted to use that to register, it would get flagged by the voter registration system, and they would not be allowed to register.
  3. If you show up to a polling location (ID or no) without being registered in that precinct, you are not going to be allowed to vote, as you are not on that precinct’s rolls. Some places may give you a provisional ballot, but that’s not going to get counted until later, after eligibility has been confirmed (hence, not very useful if someone were trying to rig an election).
  4. If you are actually registered at the polling location, you have to declare your identity and your address…again, regardless of whether you have to show an ID. Once your vote is tallied, your name is crossed off the list. Anybody else trying to use the same identity will therefore not be allowed to vote. (except perhaps provisionally, but see #3 above)
  5. It is possible that one could acquire a fraudulent SSN, but it is by no means certain that such a fraudulent SSN would get you past the voter registration system successfully. If it did, and that individual were able to fraudulently register to vote, then they would also be able to acquire a driver’s license or other ID that would defeat voter ID laws. If one is able to defeat the protections of the voter registration system, then no voter ID law is going to prevent that person from voting.
  6. Presenting just a driver’s license at a polling location does not verify that you are registered or eligible to vote. Nor does it verify that you are a citizen, as legal immigrants can get driver’s licenses. There is therefore no way to vote with just an ID. You must be registered.
  7. So, where does that leave us? In order to fraudulently vote, the person would have to get a fake SSN, a real address, possibly an ID (easily done with the fake SSN and address), then register in a specific precinct. That person would then only be able to vote one time, and only in that precinct. If they try to vote a second time, they would get refused. If they tried to go to another precinct, they would get refused. So whatever stories you may have heard about from Fox News or Breitbart about busloads of people going from place to place voting…they are not true. It’s just not possible.
  8. As a result, large-scale voter identity fraud (that could even conceivably be defeated by voter ID laws) is both very labor intensive and incredibly inefficient. You would have to have one complete fake identity for each and every fraudulent vote cast. This explains why multiple studies show even single instances of this happening to be vanishingly small, and why Republican insistence on voter ID laws to “prevent fraud” is either ignorant or blatantly malicious.

So there you have it. Voter ID laws do not and cannot actually prevent large-scale voter fraud via impersonation. Furthermore, there is ample evidence that they do, in fact, disenfranchise many tens of thousands of people every year. Predominantly lower-income individuals and minorities. Which, incidentally, have a tendency to vote democratic. Hence: voter ID laws are bullshit.