Silencing the Voice of the People: Voter ID Laws in Arkansas

Mohona Chowdhury '17 Contributing Writer 

On Oct. 15, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a proposed state law that would require voters to show federal ID before casting a vote. The move came after the state’s highest court ruled that the new law goes beyond the voting requirements set forth in the Arkansas constitution.

Voter ID requirements are not new. Currently, 30 states require voters to have identification to vote in elections, and, of those, 15 mandate a government-issued photo ID.

The most recent attempts to introduce voting restrictions, however, continue the theme of making voting a game. The United States rests on the foundation of “we the people,” not “we the select few.”

The voter ID requirements already affect over 21 million Americans without the proper photo identification cards, effectively denying them a basic right. Most of these are in lower income brackets and include minorities and the elderly. The right to vote is not a privilege, but a basic right protected by six separate constitutional amendments.

These restrictions put a higher value on a specific set of citizens, silencing voices that already are struggling to be heard. The ACLU states that as many as 25% of African American citizens of voting age do not have government-issued photo ID, compared to 8% of white citizens of voting age.

Many have argued the voter restrictions mimic historically discriminatory laws such as poll taxes, which were put in place to disenfranchise a specific set of citizens.

The United States already has a relatively low electoral participation rate. Politicians should be encouraging more people to vote rather than the contrary.

Many call the imposition of voter ID laws a “solution searching for a problem,” and I am inclined to agree with them. Those in support often cite voter fraud as a large problem and propose ID laws as a “solution.” Yet, there is little to no evidence that proves the country faces large instances of voter fraud

The latest voter participation law may have been struck down in Arkansas, but similar laws are being passed in many other states and are a direct threat to our right to vote. Politicians are meant to serve as the voice of the people, not the voice of the few, yet voter ID laws such as the one proposed in Arkansas only serve to silence.