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Controversy Over Voter ID Laws Continues in US Presidential Election

  • Chris Simkins

As millions of Americans vote across the U.S., many are casting their ballots amid a backdrop of new voting laws in nearly three dozen states that require voters to produce identification before they are allowed to cast their ballots.

The history of such laws are controversial.

More states have been requiring this since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"There were some who had said this would be a way to be able to prevent people from illegally obtaining the right to vote, perhaps having terrorists who have the right to vote. So all of a sudden, there was this discussion of whether identification should be required," Andra Gillespie, a political analyst, said.

Stricter voter ID laws

But in states like North Carolina which had a strict voter ID law since 2013, a court struck down the requirement earlier this year, saying it discriminated against African-Americans.

Some black voters say the law had racist intentions.

"To suppress, fear and intimidate us [black voters]. What are they [they lawmakers] afraid of? Let people exercise their right to vote their choice," said Thomas Fowler, a state resident and voter.

But studies suggest a decade-old voter ID law in Georgia has had little impact on suppressing the vote.

"One of the ironies of the voter identification law here in Georgia is that it has not had an adverse effect on African American voter turnout. So, in fact, African American turnout has actually increased in Georgia since the passage of the voter ID laws," Gillespie said.

Proponents of the strict voter ID requirements say they are designed to eliminate widespread voting fraud. But critics contend there's no evidence of widespread fraud.

Voter fraud penalties

Independent voter Scott Herrick says it would be foolish to commit voter fraud because the penalties are severe.

"What is the payoff for it if I go and try to pretend I am somebody else and cast one ballot and risk years of jail," Herrick said.

North Carolina political science professor Charles Prysby says voter fraud is not a problem.

"There are different kinds of voter fraud. But the one that almost never occurs is people coming down in person and trying to impersonate someone else," Prysby said.

Political analysts say they'll be watching to see if voter ID laws have a negative impact on turnout among other minority groups in this election such as Asian-Americans and Latino voters.

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