Kathryn Mickle: Voter restriction or protection?
Who can vote in the United States? Article VI of our Constitution states: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for office," but the specific determination of voters rests with individual states. Over time the federal role in elections has increased through constitutional amendments and enacted legislation but always the voting right and privilege is for U.S. citizens: all persons born or naturalized are citizens (14th Amendment, 1866 and 1868). Other pertinent amendments are: Removal of restrictions: race, color or previous servitude (15th Amendment, 1870); due to gender (19th Amendment, 1920); Washington D.C. presidential election voting (23rd Amendment, 1961); failure to pay poll tax or have property ownership (24th Amendment, 1964 and 1966); age -- anyone over 18 allowed to vote (26th Amendment, 1971); requirement that a person reside in a jurisdiction for an extended period of time (14th Amendment -- Dunn v. Blumstein 1972). The 17th Amendment, which allows for direct election of senators, passed in 1913.
The current status of voting rights and privilege, states that any adult citizen of the United States, and the District of Columbia may not be restrained from voting. Of course this includes one vote for one citizen.
More simply explained, except for the above citations, the states can restrict voting for various reasons. For example, some states require that citizens register a set number of days prior to elections (Massachusetts) or deny convicted felons the right to vote.
In 1999, Virginia attempted to require IDs for voting, but was blocked by court order initiated by the NAACP and Democrats. In the 2000 presidential election where George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes, many in both parties were receptive to measures combating alleged voter fraud. In the United States, we have believed there is no voter fraud. This isn’t the case today.
It is alleged in both parties and nationwide. Conflict has been seen most recently in the Mississippi Republican primary. There are accusations of paying for votes and double voting in both primaries. In the Minnesota state Democratic primary, there were accusations of many voters claiming the same nonexistent address.
In 41 states there is some requirement for voters to prove citizenship. Methods vary from signatures to presenting government issued photo identification. This issue continues to be controversial. Those who oppose this requirement say that it restricts the poor and minorities. However, the most recent results of the "restrictive" voter registration laws in North Carolina, which does not allow same-day registration and requires an ID be shown. In the 2014 primary election, black voters increased 29.5 percent and white voters only 13.7 percent compared to the 2010 primary elections. Common sense seems to say if citizens are the only ones allowed this right and privilege, we should protect this right for citizens -- and that each vote is counted and is legitimate.
But is it too restrictive? In Massachusetts, non-driver photo ID’s are easily obtained at $25 and are valid for five years. In Massachusetts there is an ID required to drive a car, fly in a plane, get a passport, buy alcohol, cigarettes and some over the counter cold medicine. We must show ID to apply for a job, for unemployment, food stamps, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits. We need an ID to open a bank account, get a loan, rent an apartment, rent a car, a hotel room, buy a house, buy a cell phone and even a library card. We need an ID to adopt a pet, get hunting and fishing licenses, a marriage license and a gun license. An ID is required to rent a mature-rated video game, to give blood, to go to a casino -- but not to vote!
Makes no sense to me. Massachusetts should join the majority of Americans who want to strengthen rather than weaken the ballot box. How say you?
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.