Do States Need Voter ID Laws?

Several states across the country are debating the necessity and legality of voter ID laws.

Voters across the country waited in line to participate in Democratic primaries.
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Laws that will limit the ability of Americans to vote are the topic of heated debate this fall, with fights taking place over the issue in several key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Republicans say voter fraud is a big issue that warrants laws requiring voters to have a government-issued ID.

Republicans support the voter ID laws, which they say will protect the integrity of our nation's electoral system by ensuring the identity of those casting ballots. They say not requiring a voter to show a photo ID at the poll enables people to falsely cast ballots for others.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Republicans point to occasions of forged ballots, people casting votes for deceased residents, and nonresidents registered to vote as reasons stricter voter ID laws are needed. They say a photo ID is required for many things citizens to every day, and requiring them to have one to vote is not an unreasonable request.

"In America today, a photo ID is required to buy beer or cigarettes, get married, get on an airplane, or enter the Department of Justice to meet with Eric Holder," Cleta Mitchell, president of the Republican National Lawyers Association, writes in U.S. News.

Democrats, however, say the voter ID laws unfairly target young adults, the elderly, minorities, and the poor because these groups are less likely to have a government-issued photo ID. They argue Republicans are trying to restrict access of those groups, who can tend to lean Democratic, to the polls.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Is Voter Fraud a Real Problem?]

"It is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting," Georgia Rep. John Lewis said."The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state's new voter-ID law is 'gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.' That's not right."

Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., went on, "I've lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered, and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote."

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

Democrats say that there are not enough cases of voter fraud to warrant such laws at the risk of disenfranchising so many.

Liberal organizers do say the measures on the ballot in several states are having the positive effect of mobilizing volunteers and voters, because it convinces people their vote matters. If it didn't, Republicans wouldn't be trying so hard to stop it, they say.

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