Rick Hasen points out how, even if voter fraud were a problem (it isn’t), voter ID laws would be no kind of solution. There are several types of voter fraud, according to the most fervent promoters of it. You have voter registration fraud, when someone sends in a bunch of fake names and registers them to vote. For that to matter, Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck would have to actually show up at the polls to vote. You have absentee ballot fraud. There’s insider voter fraud, where elections officials manage the votes to get a particular candidate elected. Finally, you have in-person voter fraud, where someone votes in an election more than once. That’s the only one that would be captured by the voter ID law. And that one really never happens.
The only kind of fraud such ID laws prevent is impersonation: a person registered under a false name or claiming to be someone else on the voter rolls.
I have not found a single election over the last few decades in which impersonation fraud had the slightest chance of changing an election outcome — unlike absentee-ballot fraud, which changes election outcomes regularly. (Let’s face it: impersonation fraud is an exceedingly dumb way to try to steal an election.)
Pointing to a few isolated cases of impersonation fraud does not prove that a state identification requirement makes sense. As with restrictions on absentee ballots, we need to weigh the costs of imposing barriers on the right to vote against the benefits of fraud protection.
Indeed, as one strategy to ensure legal voting in Pennsylvania in the event of a voter ID law that could lock out 1 million eligible voters or more, officials are advising senior citizens to request an absentee ballot. There are somewhat stringent requirements for absentee ballots in Pennsylvania, but a senior citizen who faces hardship getting to the polls can probably obtain one. And they don’t need to present a voter ID in order to do it.
The point is that voter ID laws solve no problem, but force eligible voters to seek other ways to get their vote cast. Inevitably some of them who would have otherwise voted will give up. And that’s what they call voter suppression.