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If Everyone Else Is Doing It…

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Voter ID is a controversial topic that we’ve taken on here before. We even shot a vlog (watch the video) to see how long it would take to get a voter ID if you lived in California without a drivers license or car, and it wasn’t easy.

In a new paper for the Harvard Law and Policy Review, Why Tuesday? advisory board member Tova Wang and Frederic Schaffer say that the “everyone else is doing it” argument about voter ID is not quite true.

One of the claims made by advocates of Indiana-like voter identification laws is that other countries require identification to vote, so therefore the United States should too. “If ID cards threaten democracy, why does almost every democracy except us require them, and why are their elections conducted better than ours?” one prominent supporter has asked rhetorically. Senator Mitch McConnell, one of the major champions in Congress of strict voter identification laws, has used the same argument in pushing for such legislation. In the Supreme Court oral argument regarding Indiana’s law, Justice Alito queried, “If [impersonation fraud] is not a problem at all, how do you account for the fact that . . . many other countries around the world have voter ID requirements?”

The “everyone else is doing it” claim is exaggerated. While many countries require identification for voting, some do not. Countries that do not require identification include Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (with the exception of Northern Ireland). In Norway, Ireland, and the Netherlands, voters are required to present identification only if it is requested by a poll worker. In Switzerland, every registered voter is sent a registration card prior to an election, and if the voter brings her registration card to the polling place, no additional identification is needed.

To read their complete research paper in PDF form, download it here. Hat tip to Rick Hasen for bringing my attention to this article.

Related:
Latinos pledge opposition to proposed CA voter ID law

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