Voting laws raise political controversy

With the 2012 election cycle approaching, issues involving voting laws have raised controversy across the country.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has written model legislation detailing more stringent voting laws, with parts of the legislation being adopted by other states, including in Texas, where Rep. Tom Craddick, former ALEC chairman, cosponsored the voting bill.

These laws have been introduced in the time since the 2010 midterm elections, and many of them include restrictions such as requiring proof of citizenship, ending election day registration and limiting early voting.

However, the most common is the requirement of a government-issued photo ID. Shana Harrison, president of the Illini Democrats and junior in LAS, said she believes that the ID laws could affect low-income citizens as well as students.

“If you move away to college, generally your home address isn’t going to match your campus address,” Harrison said. “It’s really important that in Illinois we continue to make sure that we elect officials who aren’t going to try and tailor the voting laws.”

State legislators said the laws are supposed to fight voter fraud, but there may be political motivations as well, said Stan Richards, president of the Political Science Club at UIUC.

He said he believes there is motivation on both sides of the political spectrum.

“(Conservatives could be) trying to restrict voting for those that normally wouldn’t vote their way,” Richards said. “At the same time, you see those on the left who want to expand voting opportunities for those that tend to vote their way.”

Although this legislation has not been passed in Illinois, Richards said this sort of model legislation could spread to other states if it is successful in the states where it has been adopted. However, he said results may not be impacted as much in large-scale elections, because the groups who are most disadvantaged tend not to vote much anyway.

Mike Kozlowski, president of Illinois College Republicans and senior in LAS, said people should have to prove their citizenship to cast a ballot, but that requiring a photo ID is unnecessary. He also said that ending early voting and election day registration could prevent candidates from “buying” elections.

“I could go ahead and get a bus and pay people to come vote for me and just pick them up off the street. And that’s really not what the spirit of a republic is,” Kozlowski said.