Voter ID: Voter Suppression or Election Protection?

By Brent House

Voter I.D. initiatives are on the ballot in two U.S. states this election cycle. Currently, 34 states have some form of Voter ID requirement. North Carolina and Arkansas are considering amending their state constitutions to include provisions that require voters to show valid photo IDs before they are able to vote.

In Arkansas, the initiative passed. The amendment requires citizens to provide valid ID when voting in person or when mailing in absentee ballot. This means that provisional ballot certification will shift from voters affirming that they are who they are to requiring that their identity be verified via photograph before they are certified. This isn’t the first time Arkansas has attempted to pass such an initiative. In 2013, the legislature passed a voter ID law that was subsequently struck down by the Arkansas supreme court in 2014. In May 2018, a judge blocked the current initiative before the primary election in Arkansas, calling it an unconstitutional attempt to impose additional requirements to vote. However, the Arkansas supreme court ruled that the measure could stand while the state considered the issue again.

In North Carolina, the initiative is still too close to call at as of 11PM. It seems that the measure may pass by a slim margin. The initiative is much the same as the Arkansas initiative, and North Carolina has had an equally tumultuous relationship with Voter ID requirements. North Carolina passed a Voter ID requirement in 2013 that was then enforced only in the 2016 primaries. Before the 2016 general election, federal courts rejected the majority of the provision as unconstitutional. The 2013 initiative was ruled unconstitutional because the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that the state legislature had enacted the requirement with racially-discriminatory intent.

Proponents of voter ID requirements claim that it will help prevent voter fraud, while opponents claim that it is conducive to voter suppression and racial discrimination. The Arkansas amendment will provide a free valid ID to any eligible voter without one in an attempt to have the best of both worlds. The North Carolina amendment does not contain the same provision, and that may lead to it being considered more problematic than its Arkansas counterpart.