State voter Information cards need more information

Hunter Richey

In 2011, the Alabama legislature passed Act 2011-673, requiring Alabama voters to show photo identification at the polls in order to vote. After a three-year implementation period, the policy went into effect beginning with the primary of June 3, 2014. Billed as a way to cut down on voter fraud, Alabama passed the photo identification requirement shortly after the Republican Party gained control of the State House in 2010. Thirty-two other states have similar laws, with the majority having been passed in the last decade, and many of the laws cleared a potential hurdle when Shelby County v. Holder (2013) struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – the section requiring “preclearance” from the federal government to implement any changes to voting laws or practices within many states.

While a reasonable argument could be made for or against Alabama’s photo identification law, that is not what this piece is about. Instead, I propose a simple fix to an issue that may have been overlooked by those at the state capitol along the way.

When an Alabama resident registers to vote, they receive a card in the mail listing which state House, Senate and congressional districts they reside in and where to vote on Election Day. Missing from the card, however, is any sort of reminder to bring a now required photo identification to the polling place. While this may have simply been overlooked by elections officials in Montgomery, it has the potential to be a significant hindrance to many voters across the state. If a voter were to show up to vote without a photo identification, they would be allowed to vote with a provisional ballot, but would then be required to present valid ID to elections officials by Friday of the same week for their vote to count. Such a barrier may seem miniscule to some, but for a voter who maintains a busy work schedule, lacks a personal vehicle, has to travel a significant distance to reach the county probate office or simply loses interest after being required to complete another task to vote, it could be the deciding factor for whether or not they have a say in the democratic process.

The state of Alabama encourages all eligible voters to exercise their right as American citizens to vote, and to promote such an ideal, the State must ensure that everything within its power is done to provide voters with the information they need. The state has invested in efforts to provide Alabama voters with photo IDs, and adding a simple “remember to bring a valid photo identification to vote on Election Day” to voter information cards would help to ensure those efforts were a success. A single statement on a voter card may not fix all of Alabama’s political problems, but it could help to ease one of them and possibly lead to more of its citizens participating in the democratic process.

Hunter Richey is a junior majoring in economics and political science. His column runs biweekly.