IMAGINE if you didn't need any ID to get into a football game, write a check, or get a passport. Sure it'd be convenient sometimes, but the potential for abuse would be great -- especially in the honor code-free world outside the University. The Virginia state legislature recently passed a law requiring that potential voters provide identification before proceeding to the polls. It's in the best interest and for the protection of all registered voters, but Virginia's Democrats oppose the law anyway -- without real reason.
The voter identification law creates a pilot program requiring ID cards from voters in 10 localities in Virginia, five counties and five cities. It will affect about one million registered voters unless the Democratic Party of Virginia is successful in receiving a court injunction against it. The law's purpose is to prevent voter fraud this November, and it was created in response to a board of elections audit showing that thousands of ineligible voters participated in last year's elections.
Although our honor code allows for a certain amount of trust within the University community, many activities still require presentation of a student ID. It's not enough to be checked off a list or write your name down. The real world doesn't offer the same community of trust that the University does, and yet, simply giving a registered name at the polls is the only prerequisite to voting. This system, while easy and convenient, also welcomes abuse. It's time it was changed. The pilot program should be upheld.
These days, businesses and workplaces require IDs on a regular basis. You need identification to get a Blockbuster movie rental card, enter a bar or drive a car. Many companies require their employees to wear visible IDs. Here at the University, we need our IDs to use the Aquatics & Fitness Center, and attend sporting events. Identification is necessary for the simplest of activities.
And yet voting is an extremely meaningful activity. Through voting we elect people to represent us and make the laws that govern our lives. The right to vote is one factor that makes us a democracy, that historically we have defended, fought for and died for. It's only right, then, that those who vote do so legally. Presenting an ID is a small burden to bear to preserve the integrity of the process of selecting our nation's leaders.
Virginia's Democrats argue that an ID requirement places too big a burden on potential voters. Craig K. Beiber, executive director of the Democratic Party of Virginia, claims that on election day, voters will be confused about what forms of identification are acceptable. This might be a valid argument, except that almost any form of ID is allowed: voter registration cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, passports and military or student IDs.
Additionally, steps are being taken just to make sure that voters aren't confused. The state board of elections will mail voter ID cards to one million people to ensure they can meet the identification requirement. They'll also enclose a letter explaining the pilot project so voters will know exactly what the new law entails and how to be able to vote. With such thorough preparation, it's hard to imagine that the new program will cause long delays at the polls or discourage minorities from voting, as Beiber fears.
Democrats also are concerned that the program discriminates by placing a greater burden on voters in the affected localities. While this may be true, direct efforts to make voting in these localities just as easy as ever compensate for this discrepancy.
Even opponents of the program can't defend voter fraud. Voters shouldn't get away with using the names of convicted felons, mental patients and the dead. If people believe that felons shouldn't be barred for life from voting, they should push for a change in that law rather than targeting an essentially unrelated program.
The pilot program passed the Virginia legislature strictly on party lines -- and according to The Washington Post, it was only because one Democrat in the House of Delegates voted for it by mistake. Now Democrats hope to win an injunction preventing it from being enforced on election day. However, the U.S. Justice Department has approved the pilot program, and all eligible voters should, too. On election day I want my vote to count, not to be countered by a fraudulent voter. And of course, without any trouble, I'll have my ID ready.
(Jennifer Schaum is a Cavalier Daily associate editor.)