Inconsistent voting laws cause difficulties for voters

IUS Horizon

The campaign trails of both presidential candidates have left many citizens informed on who to vote for come Election Day, but few of them are aware of various voting laws pertaining to each state.

Because voting laws differ from state to state, problems can arise from an ill-informed public, causing their voices to go unheard due to lack of consistency. Much of this confusion comes from the fact that individual states have the ability to enforce their own voting laws.

While federal voting laws, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, regulate equality and convenience, state laws make up most conditions for voting.

Voter ID Requirements

Indiana is one of four states that require a strict photo ID in order to vote on Election Day.

According to the 2012 Indiana Voter’s Bill of Rights, citizens must have a government issued photo ID before placing a ballot. The ID must include the voter’s name, photograph and an expiration date, which can either be current or have expired after the last general election — in this case, Nov. 6, 2010.

Those who cannot provide a correct form of ID are still allowed to fill out a provisional ballot.

If the necessary documentation is not provided to the county election board at noon within 10 days of the election, individuals will be informed that their vote was not counted.

Although this seems like a lot of work, the strict photo ID rules are necessary to prevent voter fraud.

On the other hand, our southern neighbor Kentucky only requires a non-photo ID.

This can include anything from a social security card to a credit card. Even a precinct officer can vouch for someone if they are acquaintances.

The fact that voters can show a piece of plastic with a name on it to decide our leaders is baffling.

Enforcing strict photo-ID laws is essential to the voting process because it helps eliminate fraud.

In a study conducted by News21 in August, more than 2,000 cases of alleged voter fraud were discovered since 2000.

In reality, the real amount of voter fraud is unknown due to the amount that goes undetected. By providing stricter photo-ID requirements, less incidents of election manipulation will occur.

One argument against these requirements involves the discrimination it performs, especially for minorities, the elderly and low-class individuals who cannot afford an ID.

Citizens must have an ID for almost anything these days, especially to receive government assistance and welfare.

The ID does not even have to be an issued driver’s license — it can be a simple identification card. The costs of these ID cards are relatively cheap, with the Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles charging $13, which is valid for six years. For the elderly, this price is even cheaper — only $10 for those 65 years and older or disabled.

Felon Voting Laws  

Only two states allow voting rights to incarcerated felons — Maine and Vermont — while other states differ on if a felon’s voting rights are restored upon completion of their sentences.

Felons should not be granted the right to vote while in prison because the whole point of serving time is to take away those rights.

However, depending on the class level of felonies, voting rights should be returned upon completion of their sentences.

While this is the case for former felons in Indiana, those in Kentucky are less fortunate. Kentucky, along with four other states, provides ex-felons with permanent disenfranchisement — elimination of voting rights — and those rights can only be restored with approval from the governor.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, almost 190,000 Kentucky individuals are denied the right to vote because of felony convictions. This number is a part of nearly 6 million individuals who are disenfranchised nationwide.

African Americans represent the largest percentage of the disenfranchisement population in Kentucky at more than 23 percent — four times the disenfranchisement rate statewide.

Individuals who have served their time should be able to have their voting rights restored. In cases of Class 1 felonies — those that are the most serious crimes — they should be given back after completion of their parole sentences, while those with a lower charge need to have their voting rights reinstated after being released from prison.

Having these rights helps ex-felons transition back into the community and minimizes their chances of being ostracized by society.

A Florida study even shows only one in 10 felons who are granted back their rights returns to prison as opposed to one in three without those rights.

By allowing former felons the opportunity to vote, it could possibly minimize their chances of returning to jail.

Absentee Ballots and Residency Voting

Both Indiana and Kentucky vary on these issues.

While Indiana requires no excuse for absentee voting and a 30-day residency, Kentucky requires a valid excuse and requires a 28-day residency.

Valid excuses for Kentucky include being overseas, an out-of-state student or a pregnant woman in her third trimester.

For those who are uninformed about the variations across states, it can potentially deny individuals the opportunity to vote in an election.

In order to fix this problem, voting laws should become consistent at the federal level. While federal laws control fairness in voting, they should also promote equal voting rules across the states.

This includes stricter photo ID laws, the ability for ex-felons to vote and unvarying regulations for absentee ballots and residency requirements.

In this way, more Americans can become informed of voting capabilities so they do not lose their chances to select representatives on Election Day.