Voter ID restrictions may affect election results

Richard Matus

Jon Rogowski, a Washington University political science professor, recently co-authored a report concluding that in the neighborhood of 700,000 young minority voters could be newly disenfranchised because of a lack of acceptable photo ID.

The report, co-authored by Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, charts the patchwork of existing state laws on voting, noting that different ID is acceptable in different states. The information is often poorly publicized and largely inaccessible by young minorities and the elderly, thus disenfranchising those segments of the population.

According to the Missouri Secretary of State’s website, non-photo forms of ID acceptable at Missouri polling stations include “a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check or other government document that contains the name and address of the voter.”

On a national scale, the number of voters excluded from Florida because of these ID laws is greater than the Bush margin of victory over Gore in 2000. This election season, 16 competitive House races may be decided by voter exclusion, the report suggests. The makeup of the Electoral College might also be shifted as a result of the laws.

“The presidential election isn’t the only game in town; there are lots of other really important races that depend on turnout,” Rogowski said.

Voter ID laws have been passed by state legislatures in local elections sometimes overlooked by voters.

“The state-by-state differences make it difficult for a national organization to effectively communicate the message in a way that will reach everyone who is affected in some way by these laws,” Rogowski said.

Rogowski and Cohen’s report suggests that the inconsistent policy regarding the forms of identification necessary to vote in each state mandates efforts that reach beyond voter registration.

“[We need to] make sure just as we do the type of mobilization where we tell people where their precinct is, where their polling place is, the same thing with respect to how to make sure that you’re prepared to cast a ballot,” Rogowski said.

While new state laws requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls may potentially exclude a sizable population from this year’s national election, voter registration efforts at the University appear strong.

The Gephardt Institute of Public Service carried out a major on-campus voter registration drive Sept. 18.

“It makes sense that there are things that young people do not see as connected to them,” said Robin Hattori, assistant director of the Gephardt Institute.

Hattori attributed the difficulty of encouraging students to vote to a variety of reasons.

“We had a student tell us he didn’t want to vote because he didn’t want to walk to his polling place,” Hattori said.

Hattori and junior Adam Flores, who works for the Gephardt Institute, considered the registration drive a success. According to Hattori, more than a thousand people registered through the drive on Sept. 18.

“Students really appreciated having the option to register and request the absentee ballot,” Flores said.

He emphasized his conviction that young voters matter.

“Only 51 percent of people aged 18-29 voted in 2008. The other 49 percent do make a difference if they do go out and vote,” Flores said.

The myriad of state voting restrictions is being countered nationally in the House of Representatives. Emanuel Cleaver, a democrat from Missouri, is a cosponsor of the “America Votes Act of 2012,” a bill allowing a sworn affidavit to prove one’s identity rather than the more restrictive ID regulations.

The deadline to register in Missouri is Oct. 10 while absentee-ballot regulations vary by state. In Missouri, university-issued student identification is sufficient to vote.