The chaotic elections of 2000 were barely more than a decade ago, and yet chances are that the results of this election could be equally controversial. Several states have enacted requirements for voter IDs at polling stations. It seems like a reasonable request until you realize that the United States lacks any form of official national ID card.
A voter must show either a driver’s license, passport or other form of official ID to establish their identity. Except that many people, particularly in urban areas, lack these types of ID.
Any voter who is turned away at a polling both has the right to cast a provisional vote, a vote that will than be researched and also give the voter an extended period of time to prove their identity. If a great number of provisional ballots is turned in, it could lead to a delayed result of the election, up to and over a week.
Provisional votes require a lot of legwork. Voters must be tracked down, addresses checked, signatures matched. There is a huge amount of effort that goes into these procedures.
The last time there was a delay in election results, the news media jumped the gun and announced a winner, changing the tone of the election discussions and perhaps even history itself. The process of the Florida recount took ages.
This year it is anticipated that Florida could cast up to 300,000 provisional votes. That is more than enough to decide the state election results.
While there is definitely a need to establish that voters are who they say they are, the new voter ID laws jump the gun, disenfranchise the elderly and throw yet another wrench in an already failing voting system.
Either the U.S. needs to bite the bullet and establish some kind of national ID card system, or, better yet, they need to rethink the voter ID issue.
Voting from abroad, a new address, or even at your regular polling station has gotten progressively easier. With the help of FVAP, early voting and provisional voting, there is a lot that people can do to make sure their vote is counted.
But this election is sure to be highly disputed no mater who the winner is, given how divided the nation is. If Americans are kept waiting a week for results, it could make the winner seem “weak” despite an overwhelming number of votes.
George W. Bush received the winning electoral votes from Florida with only a 600-vote lead. This illustrates how much every single vote counts.
Perhaps before voter ID laws are put into place, states should better research how much voter fraud is actually going on and see if it is worth the strain and stress of the new changes.
As it is, expect even greater frustration and aggravation on Election Day than usual. And hope that your ID is enough.