State representative, Dracut Democrat
Since becoming a legislator in 1995, I have filed a voter identification bill. With the right to vote comes the obligation that we ensure that the process is secure so that every vote is a legitimate vote. This has nothing to do with party politics! Poll workers have to take the word of the person who is coming to vote by just using the name and street address to identify themselves. With voter databases made available to political parties and candidate campaigns, anyone can walk into the polls and say the name and address of a voter and obtain a ballot unless that voter has already voted or the precinct worker knows the actual voter or the imposter personally. Most poll workers do not know the identity of every voter in their precinct. Some elections have been decided by one or a few votes. An imposter’s vote could change the outcome of an election.
People will argue that not everyone has an official ID with a photo. I propose that the Commonwealth provide a free official photo ID to anyone who does not have one. I believe that a database of photos would also protect against welfare and unemployment fraud. I would suggest waiving the fee for birth certificates for the purpose of getting that ID. We have seen through this pandemic that we can make people available to give the vaccine to those who are homebound. We could have a team of election officials who could do community outreach as well. If we can afford to send every voter an application for an absentee ballot, we can afford the expense to ensure integrity.
We would be doing the citizens of the Commonwealth a great benefit by providing free government photo IDs, since they are presently required to open a bank account, receive a prescription for a narcotic at a pharmacy, and sometimes even go to a physician.
It is amazing to me that we do not have a secure National Voter Database to prevent voting in multiple states. But by passing a voter ID law, Massachusetts can go a long way to ensuring the integrity of our voting system.
Brother William H. Dickerson II
Executive Director of Brockton Interfaith Community, an affiliate of Massachusetts Communities Action Network
Isn’t voting a right? So why would we make it harder through a voter ID law?
Voter ID laws disenfranchise already marginalized groups including BIPOC people — Black people in particular, youth, the elderly, disabled people, and non-binary and transgender people.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies found that in Michigan non-white voters were about five times less likely than white voters to have access to state-issued voter identification on election day. Enacting voter ID laws targets voters in BIPOC communities, which will be detrimental to Brockton where Black residents make up over 45 percent of the population. These kinds of laws are reminiscent of the literacy tests implemented in the southern states during the Jim Crow era. Is this the kind of structural oppression we want to perpetuate?
We need laws that uphold and expand voter rights, such as same-day voter registration, mail-in voting, and measures to make the balloting process easier for incarcerated people — not voter ID laws that suppress them.
What about the issue of voter fraud? Nonexistent. Between 2000 and 2014, only 31 out of more than 1 billion ballots cast had allegations for voter impersonations.
A 2014 study by the US General Accounting Office found that voter ID laws reduced turnout by 1.9 percent in Kansas and 2.2 percent in Tennessee. This means tens of thousands of voters can be lost in an election. The reduction in turnout was particularly concentrated among BIPOC voters (along with young and new voters).
There is also discrimination in how voter ID laws are implemented. A 2014 study published in the University of Chicago’s Journal of Politics found that poll workers appear to show differential treatment toward minorities, asking for more stringent forms of voter ID.
The laws themselves are even discriminatory. For instance, under a North Carolina law struck down in 2016, public assistance and state employee IDs, which Black people possess disproprotionately, were not valid forms of voter identification.
A large majority of Brockton residents are BIPOC people. Brockton Interfaith Community opposes a voter ID law because it would create structural oppression and disenfranchise large parts of our city’s population.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is not a scientific survey. Please only vote once.