Why Photo Identification is Important for Elections

Contact: Heather Willis

The Indiana General Assembly is currently debating a much needed piece of reform legislation that will ensure the accuracy of and instill confidence in our elections.

The measure is simple but amazingly effective. It would require voters to show photo identification to prove they are who they say they are before voting.

It has been my observation while working every election at my own polling place that people expect to be asked for identification when they arrive at the polls. They approach the poll clerks' desk and immediately reach for a purse or wallet to get out a driver's license or other piece of identification. In today's society, we show identification for so many of our daily activities - to enter buildings, to write a check, to cash a check, even to look at an apartment for rent. Voters expect to be asked for identification when they cast their ballots. When they aren't asked for identification, you can sometimes read the looks on their faces, and you know they are thinking, "How do they know I am who I say I am? Can anyone come in here and vote using my name?"

Hoosiers have the right to have their ballots counted and to expect that each ballot carry exactly the same weight as every other legally registered voter's ballot. Inherent in this is the right not to have your vote diluted or cancelled out by someone who attempts to defraud the system. And that is exactly what happens when someone comes to the polling place and signs in as a deceased voter or as someone who has moved out of the precinct.

Some people have raised objections to the bill on the grounds that it creates a hardship for certain voters. I appreciate those concerns. That's why I support measures in the bill that make exceptions in certain, limited instances.

The legislation under consideration in the General Assembly right now has a provision to allow anyone who says he cannot afford a photo identification to swear to that in order for his vote to be counted. And anyone who has a religious objection to being photographed can do the same. There is under consideration an exception to this identification requirement for elderly voters who live and vote in licensed care facilities and don't have a photo ID to allow them to vote. But these are small numbers of people for whom these exceptions are being carved out. For the most part, we all carry photo identification with us every day to prove who we are any time the need arises.

Might it take a few more seconds at the clerks' desk to present identification? Sure. Might there be additional training needed for election workers before election day? Sure. Will we need to spend some time and energy educating the public about the new requirement? Absolutely. And all for the betterment of our election system. Voting to elect our leaders is a precious right we all enjoy. I applaud the efforts of the General Assembly to preserve this right for those who cherish it and make it more difficult for those who want to cheat the rest of us.