Opinion: Russia thanks you for opposing voter ID

J. Christian Adams

The overwhelming majority of Americans support voter ID requirements because they instill confidence in our elections. Showing an ID when you help pick the next president is just plain common sense. 

But at a time when concerns about foreign interference in our elections is high, ID requirements also help protect the integrity of our electoral process. We can’t stop Russia’s attempts at interference from abroad, but we can protect the security of our ballots here at home.

Voter ID laws prevent errors and wrongdoing and give citizens confidence in the voting process, writes Adams.

Voter ID laws serve three core functions: they are checks against errors, they prevent wrongdoing, and they give citizens confidence in the voting process in general. Thanks to the more than 30 states with some voter ID requirements — Michigan included — Americans trust electoral outcomes — even ones they do not like. 

Anti-ID activists and a hostile media suggest that ID laws are an attack on our democracy, and they accuse its supporters of bigotry — or worse.

But election integrity safeguards like voter ID are extremely popular with the American people. Polling from Politico, Marist, Gallup, Rasmussen, the Washington Post and others regularly find that between 70% and 85% of Americans support voter ID requirements. In this political climate, such numbers are rarely seen.

A new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll further underscores the demand for these laws. Americans said they are significantly more worried about voter fraud — ineligible voters participating in elections — than they are so-called voter suppression, or even foreign interference.

“Voter suppression” is a term designed to confuse by conflating perfectly legal activity, such as keeping voter rolls current, with illegal activity like discouraging citizens from voting. It’s similar to voter ID foes comparing identification requirements to the outrages of the Jim Crow-era racial discrimination.

Opponents of voter IDs have long predicted that these policies would prevent hundreds of thousands of citizens in places like Texas and South Carolina from voting. Instead, we’ve seen record voter turnout in minority communities across the country.

The data are clear: There is no evidence of disenfranchisement due to voter ID.

One common argument is that obtaining a photo ID is a burden that too many voters cannot bear. But as the recent NPR poll confirms, just 6% of respondents reported any level of difficulty with “registration or identification” at the polls.

Now that states like Arkansas and North Carolina are passing ballot measures to put voter ID into state constitutions, these policies have attained a new level of popularity. 

One challenge supporters of voter ID face is that it’s impossible to prove a negative. No research will ever conclusively tabulate how much fraud these laws have prevented. But voter ID does more than just stop direct voter fraud. It also helps combat outside efforts to undermine our elections.

Two-factor authentication is a part of our daily lives. Think of the last time a website sent you a text message to prove you are you. Now that our voter registration systems are being targeted by bad actors like Russia, we need ID requirements more than ever to access securely our own records for voting or even address changes. Voter ID will help bar the doors to foreign infiltrators.

If you’re still fighting voter ID in 2020, the Russians thank you for your service.

J. Christian Adams is the president and general counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and a former Justice Department lawyer. He also served on the Presidential Advisory Commission for Election Integrity. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.