On May 11, 2021 the Senate Rules Committee held a markup on S.1, the Senate companion to H.R. 1, also known as the For The People Act. This legislation proposes major changes to the way in which American elections are conducted, including transferring election authority from the states to Washington, D.C. and banning basic security measures such as voter ID laws, reserving absentee voting for those who truly need it, and the removal of names of people who are deceased or who have moved out of the jurisdiction from voter rolls.
During the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to make the case that this approach will improve the U.S. election system and protect the voting rights of all citizens. He went on to accuse state efforts to bolster election security as just a strategy to suppress voting:
Sen. Chuck Schumer
False. Completely make believe.
To the contrary, basic security measures such as voter ID laws have nothing to do with suppression. Indeed, studies show that voter ID laws do not suppress voting. In fact, common-sense measures to secure a state’s election system help to ensure that every vote counts. Less secure elections have the potential to disenfranchise millions of Americans who deserve to have their voices heard. Fraudulent ballots cancel out legitimate votes.
Voter ID laws verify voter identity, deter fraud, and make elections secure. This all helps to ensure that every vote counts. These precautions have been in place in many states for years, both blue and red, and are neither racist nor discriminatory. All citizens have or can easily obtain identification, and states provide a free ID to anyone who does not have one. Just as we need an ID to drive a car, check out a library book, open a checking account, or purchase alcohol, the person voting should have to prove their identity before voting.
Many states also ask for a valid reason to vote by absentee ballot. Just as with voter ID laws, this is a basic security measure. According to the New York Times, “there is a bipartisan consensus that voting by mail…is more easily abused than other forms” and that “votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised, and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth.” In other words, the more steps between your vote and the voting booth or box, the more likely it is for security issues to arise.
Furthermore, it only makes sense that states remove from their registration rolls the names of people who are deceased or who have moved out of the jurisdiction. The failure to keep voter registrations accurate and up-to-date may lead to multiple illegal ballots being sent out, each one of which, if voted, cancels a legitimate vote.
Rather than using words like “suppression” to distract from the issue of election integrity, policymakers should focus on ensuring that election procedures make voting both accessible and secure. Click here to learn more about this issue.