Chander Davidson's The Historical Context Of Voter Photo-ID Laws?
In comparing voter-ID laws with a poll tax, he cites that there is a potentially prohibitive cost associated with obtaining photo ID. He also argues that there is a degree of undue difficulty in obtaining a photo-ID that is not only prohibitive but also tantamount to a test of a voter’s level of interest in politics, something he argues should is not be required of a voter. In arguing these factors, Davidson also skates around the role of institutional support. He implies that the true issue surrounding voter-ID laws is not the requirement that a person’s identity be confirmed at the polls, but that the system makes obtaining a photo-ID an unfair challenge to certain groups. In one statistic, Davidson notes that in a “randomly selected voting-age [sample], 11% did not have valid government-issued photo ID, while 18% of citizens 65 years of age or older lacked it, as did 25% of African Americans.” These numbers do suggest that it may be difficult for certain groups to obtain voter ID. However, Spakovsky presents conflicting evidence, claiming that “the overwhelming majority of Americans have photo ID or can easily obtain one.” To support this claim, he notes that after voter ID laws went into effect in Indiana, there was not a decrease in turnout among the groups denoted by Davidson. When read in tandem, these statistics suggest that there is a problem with obtaining valid photo-ID, but a definitive link between depressed voter turnout and voter ID laws has not been established (perhaps due to confounding factors such as the candidates involved in the election). With this evidence in mind, it seems that Davidson’s argument is sound in ideology but weak in application. Davidson does not challenge the need for identification, he only questions the relative burden of obtaining an ID. Thus, his argument could have been strengthened by advocating for easier and more affordable ways of acquiring