Requiring Voter ID at the Polls is a Snake-Oil Remedy

Snake oil is back, and gumming up our elections. Like the old-timey liniments of dubious provenance, the new policies sound promising but don't solve the problems advertised, and sometimes cause real harm.

January 9, 2008

Printed in Virginia's Daily Press, Jan. 9th, 2008 

Snake oil is back, and gumming up our elections. Like the old-timey liniments of dubious provenance, the new policies sound promising but don't solve the problems advertised, and sometimes cause real harm. Today, the Supreme Court will review the latest: an Indiana law rejecting voters who cannot show specific types of photo identification at the polls. At first, most people find the law a sensible step or, at worst, mildly inconvenient foolishness. On more careful consideration, though, it looks more and more like patent medicine: too much risk for no real reward.

Restrictive ID laws are not sugar pills, ineffective but harmless. Though most of us have a current government- issued photo ID, many eligible American citizens do not. Estimates run about 10 percent nationwide -- about 21 million voting-age citizens do not have a driver's license. A recent survey found 13 percent of registered Indianans without the right documentation. The percentages get worse among the youngest and oldest voters, lower-income voters and racial minorities.

> Click here to read the rest of Levitt's op-ed