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New Voter ID rules raise concerns of fraud, ballot rejection

Voters in Florida and Georgia who wish to vote by mail in the governor’s elections next year will need to take one more measure to guarantee they get a ballot: providing registration. In 2020, only two states had ID requirements for voters requesting a mailed ballot. This year, Republicans across th


Voters in Florida and Georgia who wish to vote by mail in the governor’s elections next year will need to take one more measure to guarantee they get a ballot: providing registration.

In 2020, only two states had ID requirements for voters requesting a mailed ballot. This year, Republicans across the country have focused on mail voting, imposing new restrictions on a process that grew in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to data collected by the Voting Rights Lab, legislation requiring extra registration for postal voting was passed in Arizona, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas, in addition to Florida and Georgia.

Republicans, capitalising on former President Donald Trump’s unfounded accusations of massive irregularities in last year’s White House race, argue that registration is needed for mailed ballots to prevent fraud and increase voter trust. There is no suggestion of systematic voter irregularities in 2020. Multiple arguments by Trump and his supporters were dismissed by courts, a group of federal, state, and local election authorities declared it the most stable election in U.S. history, and Trump’s own attorney general said he saw nothing that would affect the result.

Critics argue that adding ID criteria to receive a mailed ballot is not only inappropriate, it also provides another way for electors to make an error that would prevent them from voting absentee. They claim that identification is now needed when registering to vote and voting in person for the first time.

When ID is still required to cast a mailed vote, as is now the case in Georgia, critics argue that further ballots would be refused. It is also predicted to disproportionately impact poor, black, and college-age citizens, who are more likely to be without an ID or to have one with an incorrect address.

“Every additional provision you introduce would result in further ballot rejections, people who mistakenly refuse to comply or do not comply correctly with those requirements,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy programme at NYU’s School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, which advocates increased voter access.

Democrats are particularly concerned about a Republican measure in Michigan that would require voters to demand a printed copy of their ID while seeking a mailed ballot. While the state’s Democrat governor is likely to block any voting restrictions, the state has a special mechanism that might cause this and other voting bills to become law if enough voters vote for it and the GOP-controlled Legislature passes it.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, has rebuffed Republican suggestions that IDs are more stable than the new system, which depends on comparing a voter’s signature on ballot applications or return envelopes to the signature on file at the election office.

“There is no evidence that this move prevents or discourages fraud,” said Benson. “It also makes it more difficult to spot fraud since those attempting to fraudulently request an absentee vote simply need to provide a copy of a false ID, while forging a signature is even more difficult.”

Republican Mike Shirkey, the majority leader of the Michigan Senate, has said that voters support ID requirements and that it is important to ensure that eligible voters are Michigan citizens. “The only way to do so is with a state-issued ID,” he said.

Benson reported that 130,000 of Michigan’s 7 million eligible voters do not have a state ID or driver’s licence. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a Democrat, stated that one-quarter of his city’s Black people do not own a car, and more do not have home printers.

“If your family has a car, a phone, and a printer copier at home, these bills aren’t so bad,” Duggan said. “This is what is wrong: They have crafted a series of bills that make life much more difficult for a wealthier family without laptops or a vehicle to vote than most families. This is the essence of voting suppression.”

Voter ID provisions have long been a source of contention in the election wars, with previous campaigns focusing on laws governing in-person voting. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states had ID standards for voting at polling stations as of 2020.

Most accept a variety of nonphoto authentication, such as a bank or utility bill. Many states permit electors to sign an oath under penalty of perjury stating that they are who they want to be.

Democrats also stated that ID standards are acceptable as long as various means of identification are approved and electors have the ability to sign an affidavit if they do not have an ID or fail to carry it to the polls. Democrats in Congress are pushing federal bills this year that would require an affidavit in any state that has a voter ID law.

The additional ID provisions for requesting or submitting mailed ballots are new this year. Just Alabama and Wisconsin previously needed registration to submit a mailed vote.

To submit a postal ballot, Florida residents would need to include their driver’s licence number, state ID number, or the last four digits of their Social Security number, according to a newly signed rule. Those wishing to vote by mail in South Dakota must have a copy of a photo ID or a notarized oath.

When seeking and returning an absentee ballot in Georgia, voters must have their name, date of birth, address, and driver’s licence or state ID card number.

Georgia state Sen. Brian Strickland, a Republican whose district is south of Atlanta, told reporters last month that the requirement was intended to step away from relying on local election officials to fit voter signatures on file to applications and ballots, which he characterised as a “not workable operation.”

“This was a major complaint from both sides,” Strickland said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said he has long backed an ID provision. He claims he has been sued by both Democrats and Republicans over signature matching, and that the procedure is arbitrary.

“When it comes to photo ID, it’s really objective,” he said.

In reaction to Democratic challenges, court settlements in many states have ensured electors that they will have the ability to correct issues caused by a lost or mismatched signature.

The Georgia law is now being challenged in court, with one arguing that the ID provision increases the risk of fraud and identity theft. According to a federal complaint brought by a coalition of county election board members, candidates, and others, the requisite personal identity details can be easily compromised, opening the door for ballots to be submitted and cast using voters’ names and information without their consent.

Georgia state Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democrat representing a metro Atlanta district, said the law is based on myths shared by Trump and his supporters and would hurt voters.

“At the end of the day,” Jordan said, “we shouldn’t forget the bill’s roots, the meaning behind it, and how many of these proposed clauses can be used to invalidate the will of the voter.”