John Oliver on Photo ID for Voting

Written by Leah Thompson on February 29, 2016

It can be understandable to require a form of identification when voting, but not everyone has access to a driver’s license. And yet that is what many states are trying to impose. Requiring citizens to have a photo ID hinders the ability for everyone to have the chance to vote at the polls.

Why is it so complicated to get an ID? In John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight, he told us about Doris Clark, a 68-year-old, who wishes to vote, but needs a photo ID to do that. She tries numerous times to apply for a Pennsylvania voter ID card, but is denied each time. Each time she tries again, she is told that she is missing a document. Even when she does bring what is necessary to get a voter ID card, she is told to bring more, denying her the chance to get a voter ID card and therefore denying her the chance to vote. It may have been simple for you to get an ID, but it’s not the case for everyone. I think John Oliver is right when he says that “Voting is a right. If you take that away, you ruin democracy.” And that is what we’re doing if we deny eligible voters the right to cast a ballot for lack of photo ID.

Not only can it be complicated to attain a photo ID card, but in places all over the country the offices that offer the photo ID cards hardly ever seem to be open. In Wisconsin, Alabama, and Mississippi less than half of the offices that issue IDs are open five times a week. Some people with 9-5 jobs or those who live in isolated areas may have a hard time getting to these offices when they are only open for a small amount of time. The citizens in Sauk City, Wisconsin have it the worst. The ID office is only open on the fifth Wednesday of every month. In 2016, there are four days to go to the office: March 30th, June 29th, August 31st, and November 30th. It is the same amount of days for nearly every year. They can’t expect citizens to only be available to get a voter ID 4 out of 365 days a year. That does not give equal opportunity to everyone wanting to vote.

Although our DMV offices are open more often here in Colorado, some people cannot get an ID without significant effort and resources. Colorado Legal Services helps people who are having a hard time getting an ID, and often they say, it’s the paperwork you need to get a driver’s license or state ID card that’s the problem. It can be an impossible barrier to go through the court system, for example, to get that paperwork you’ve lost or never had.

The given reason for requiring photo identification is to prevent fraud. John Oliver: the “only crime it prevents is voter impersonation. One person. Showing up to polls. Pretending to be someone they’re not. Which is a pretty stupid crime. Cause you have to stand in line at a polling place, risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine” just to cast one more vote. It’s a lot of hard work even attempting to impersonate someone.

What’s worse, some of these lawmakers calling for photo ID for voting participate in a pretty hypocritical act. Ghost voting. It’s something some lawmakers do in order to get more votes. They cast votes for other lawmakers – and it’s all on camera. Lawmakers in Tennessee even have a special stick they use to reach each others voting buttons. They make the claim that they’re doing it out of necessity and they are doing nothing wrong. How fair is it that lawmakers want a photo ID requirement for voters to prevent voter impersonation, but they themselves are voting more than once? 

Every eligible voter should have the opportunity to vote without any limitations. In Colorado, we have a long list of IDs people can use to vote. We have a good law. Cutting the list would put a barrier between people and their right to vote.

Leah Thompson is a junior at Regis University studying Communications and Spanish.

Office: Colorado Common Cause

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Voter Suppression

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