Before Wyoming moves forward with answers to voter identification, let's ask a question: What's the problem?

Wyoming is not so unlike many other states which have contemplated tightening up restrictions on voter identification. The concern is that potential loopholes in the voting law might make for easy exploitation at the polls.

A bill -- Senate File 134 -- would have required photo identification (presumably government issued) to vote in Wyoming.

The point is valid that you need more identification and verification to cash a check than to vote.

And we believe that's as it should be.

You don't necessarily have a right to cash a check, but adults should have the right to vote.

That's part of our concern about voter identification laws: The potential harm seems to greatly outweigh the potential for abuse.

More than that, though, we live in a state where voter fraud has never really been a factor. Where are the cases of voter fraud? Where do we believe it is happening?

Voter fraud is serious and voting illegally is in many states a felony, Wyoming included. In Wyoming, voter fraud could land a person in prison for up to five years, with a fine of $10,000. Few would take the risk just to cast a ballot for city council. With voter apathy already an issue, we doubt many are motivated to show up at the polls to commit a felony.

Voter fraud is also hard to imagine in a state where one political party, the Republicans, rule with such an overwhelming majority. Republicans in many cases don't need anymore votes, and Democrats can't get enough votes to make it close.

So what's the problem?

The genesis of this legislation seems to come from urban areas and states with more equal political distribution. Reports of shady politicking have led to reports of voter fraud. And yet try to track down cases of voter fraud in any meaningful number becomes more an exercise of urban legend and shadow boxing. It seems to be a fear more than a reality.

Meanwhile, what hangs in the balance is too precious. That is, potentially shutting out citizens from voting is too great of risk. Disenfranchising legitimate voters is a right for which there is no remedy. There are no "do over" elections. And there is no way to make up a lost vote.

We can think of plenty of reasons why a voter might not have photo ID, ranging from simple forgetfulness to not having a need for a government-issued card.

When we start putting more requirements on voting, we run two risks that seem to be unnecessary.

First, requiring identification or other means seems like a soft way of implementing a poll tax, a mechanism once used to keep minorities from voting. If we require certain documents from the government, there will be an expense in obtaining them. For some, even a nominal expense will be a barrier, and that's wrong. Nothing should separate a citizen from exercising the most American of rights -- the right to vote independently and without restriction.

Secondly, we must be careful any time we propose laws that would limit civic engagement. In editorials, we've lamented the apathy and lack of participation in government. We've heard those same arguments from politicians. So, why would we limit government participation which has its genesis in the polling place?

Senate File 134 was sent back to committee for more work. Concerns were raised from AARP and other groups about the effect the bill would have on older residents if it were to become law.

But many of AARP's concerns mirror ours. We don't believe these issues are limited to our older residents.

We don't believe the lawmakers have demonstrated the need for this problem. A cursory search of our archives spanning the last couple of elections didn't turn up any stories of voter fraud in Wyoming, and nothing that made a material difference in a race.

So why bother?

(11) comments

Well, all you have to do is read the papers or watch the news. The lady that voted six times in Ohio asked the same question....what is the problem? As did one of the other gentlemen who was identified because he admitted he voted more than once and didn't think it was a big deal. Yes, it is a big deal and it should be prevented. No ID....no vote. Simple

Inlustrare
Inlustrare

There was a article in the New Yorker about voter fraud see If you can’t beat em, don’t let em vote!

1963woman
1963woman

I agree that Voter fraud is not an issue and I'm not really decided if we should have to show ID. I'm not really against it - you have to show ID for so many things. But I do wonder about the statement that says "maybe you don't have id because you don't have a need for government ID." - how is that possible - you need an id for SO MANY things- check cashing (even if you don't have a checking account, you might have someone send you a check), to prove who you are in so many instances. I'd be curious to know why in 2013 a person would NOT have an ID. I don't buy that as the argument for being against Voter ID. (and remember, I'm not convinced we need Voter ID, that's just not the argument that seems to fit.)

Jackalope
Jackalope

First, conjuring up phony facts about voter fraud is convincing, even to legislators. If the perpetrators of voter restriction were really interested in a fair outcome for elections, they would work to improve the opportunities to vote by remodeling the patchwork and ineffective system of voter registration. They would be impressed by inconveniences imposed upon voters, not because of fears imagined without factual basis, but because they discouraged citizens from participating. They would protest partisan efforts to devalue the worth of a voter by the manipulation of election laws. They would abandon the argument that fewer is better.

Casey Craig
Casey Craig

Wow. Change "right to vote" to "right to bear arms" and you have a passionate defense of our constitutional carry law. It is funny how some people will complain about having to show an ID to "exercise a constitutional right", then at the same time are completely fine with charging fees for conceal carry permits and instituting an unlimited number of limits on other rights. Why not just say the right to vote is not absolute and an ID has to be provided before purchasing a fire.... err voting.

Jackalope
Jackalope

Casey, did you find something in the Supreme Court decisions that relate to concealed carry? It is certainly not in the Constitution. I would hope that you did not find it where bb183 claims he found massive voting fraud.

Wyomingsportsman
Wyomingsportsman

Ah hell, if we need background checks for guns lets have background checks to vote. And because liberals can't be trusted to vote intelligently, we might as well ban them like they would want assault weapons banned.

wyomom
wyomom

Yeah, right ...everyone who doesn't agree with you should be banned, eh Wyosport?
Heck, why have a vote at all? Why don't we all agree to make you King of Everything and you can sit around and tell us all what to do. Jeez.

CasparCollins
CasparCollins

I think his comment was supposed to be sarcastic, Wyomom. Plus, I've seen some of your posts. You can't say you don't try to force your opinion on anyone else.

Jackalope
Jackalope

Derangement appears in many forms.

Pops
Pops

Let's not elect anyone to a state or fed. office. No ID...no vote..no government. Let the most powerful rule the people. If you don't like it you can move to Wonderland. "All powerful leader; please tell me what to do and what to think." If the people don't abide by your law, send them to prison. Is this what you clones are suggesting? Please reconsider, if in fact , you are capable of reason.

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