(The Carter Center) This Jimmy Carter and James Baker III op-ed was published in the Feb. 3, 2008, edition of The New York Times.
THIS is a major election year. Unfortunately, our two major political parties — Democratic and Republican — continue to disagree on some of the rules that apply to the administration of our elections. This divide is perhaps most contentious when the issue becomes one of whether voters should present photo identification to vote.
Twenty-seven states require or request some form of ID to vote. Supporters of this policy argue that if voters identify themselves before voting, election fraud will be reduced. Opponents of an ID requirement fear it will disenfranchise voters, especially the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely than other voters to have suitable identification. The debate is polarized because most of the proponents are Republicans and most of the opponents are Democrats.
In 2005, we led a bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform and concluded that both parties’ concerns were legitimate — a free and fair election requires both ballot security and full access to voting. We offered a proposal to bridge the partisan divide by suggesting a uniform voter photo ID, based on the federal Real ID Act of 2005, to be phased in over five years. To help with the transition, states would provide free voter photo ID cards for eligible citizens; mobile units would be sent out to provide the IDs and register voters. (Of the 21 members of the commission, only three dissented on the requirement for an ID.
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