On Feb. 18, Nebraska legislators successfully filibustered a voter ID bill that would have required voters to show a photo ID to vote. Those who supported the bill argued it would keep the voting process fair and protected. They said the bill would help protect votes against fraud that could cancel them out. Yet, in the last five years, at least four voter ID laws have failed to pass in our legislature. I’m not surprised that voter ID laws have failed to pass in our state; I’m surprised anyone thinks we need to have them, let alone waste time and money for five years. Instead of drafting yet another voter ID bill, perhaps our lawmakers should take a different approach to voting. Given that less than half of Nebraskans voted last year, we need to be focused on making voting easier, not more difficult.
Voter ID laws certainly sound reasonable. Voters would have to show an ID for the same reason we have to show our Ncards after a big exam. If we provide an ID, then there’s little room for us to cheat. But, there’s a big difference between voter fraud and cheating on an exam. While almost all of us have a strong incentive for someone else to take our calculus exam, very few of us vote, let alone have any reason to commit voter fraud. Perhaps that’s why no cases of voter fraud have ever been reported in our state.
Voter ID laws certainly wouldn’t increase the chances of voter fraud, but there’s a worry they would restrict legitimate voting. Sure, a lot of us have driver’s licenses, but some of us, particularly poor Nebraskans, don’t. And if you thought your local voting booth was inefficient and time-consuming, I’m sure you’re a big fan of the department of motor vehicles. To be fair, Nebraska legislators planned to provide a free ID to voters who didn’t have driver’s licenses, and student IDs, such as our Ncards, would’ve been accepted. But all Americans, including those who don’t have the time or resources to receive an ID, have a right to vote.
Voting is inconvenient enough. While voter ID laws are unlikely to stop many of us from voting, if a handful of people are unable to vote because of these laws, the amount of people being silenced by voter fraud will likely be less than the amount of people being silenced by these laws. Instead of putting more restrictions on voters, we should be more focused on making voting easier because our voter turnout is downright embarrassing. The United States is THE democracy, yet we are in 138th place for voter turnout among democratic nations.
So what incredible, complex ways could we implement to make voting easier? For starters, why not vote during the weekend? Most of us would agree the weekend is far more convenient than Tuesday, and other than a law from 1845, there’s no reason we can’t change dates. At the very least, we could make it a holiday. A chance to be a productive American citizen on a day with no work or classes? Sounds good to me. Voting is an instrumental part of our democracy and the fact voter turnout last year was the lowest since WWII (36.4%) should be more concerning than the 31 documented cases of voter fraud in the United States.
If you’re reading this, you are likely a poor college student, a demographic that voter ID laws can suppress. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t voting, even without restrictive ID laws in place. I know voting isn’t the most efficient or entertaining thing to do with our time (I even prefer studying to voting) but it’s one of the most important things we can do. Voting is what makes our democracy work; it provides us a voice in government. If, like me, you aren’t a legal resident of Lancaster County, you can request an absentee/early ballot. This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to vote, and you can get your ballot the same way you get answers to your homework – by googling it. Make sure to include your state and county in your Google search or just request an absentee ballot from your county clerk by mail.
During a committee hearing on Nebraska’s voter ID bill, the head of a taxpayer group suggested that the only reason voters wouldn’t vote would be because they were “too lazy.” But the problem isn’t necessarily that we’re too lazy to vote. Perhaps we’re too busy on Tuesdays, maybe we can’t figure out our county’s specific registration system; maybe we’re sick, disabled, or lack adequate transportation. We don’t need voter ID laws; we have enough restrictions to deal with. If you agree with me, it’s important that you vote, and if you don’t agree with me, it’s still just as important. Whether you want voter ID laws or not, the best way to be heard isn’t necessarily to write in a school newspaper, it’s to turn in a ballot.
Bryant Grimminger is a second-year actuarial science major. Reach him for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org