By Felipe Diaz, Being Latino

So far, this election’s most controversial debate (other than the recent return of the birthers) is arguably voter I.D. laws.

Thirty-two states have already implemented some sort of voting identification law, and some of the strictest laws are in places where, according to a Pew Hispanic Centeranalysis of census figures, the minority population has sky-rocketed.

The Brennan Center for Justice has criticized many of the new voter identification laws as discriminatory, estimating that 11 percent of eligible voters lack government-issued identification. I have even come across some of the (admittedly, more absurd) commentators of online news stories that wholeheartedly believe President Obama won his election in 2008 due to deliberate and widespread voter fraud.

Personally, I’ve always been on the fence about voter identification laws. I understand the concerns of both sides. I understand the necessity of verifying votes, especially when we need identification for everything from renting sports equipment to buying alcohol. Yet, I understand the concern of disenfranchising certain populations – Latinos, African Americans, the poor and college students – all groups that are less likely to have acceptable identification and who make up key parts of the Democratic voting bloc.

So, before formulating my opinion, I decided to follow the research to lead me to the most logical outcome.

Take Wisconsin for example. A recent study found that in the 2004 election, the state had a voter fraud rate of 0.0002 percent – all of which involved people with felony convictions who weren’t eligible to vote after being released from prison. No fakers, no deliberate impersonations.

That means actual cases of voting fraud are so rare, that a voter is much more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate another voter at the polls.

Those figures didn’t stop Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus from claiming that Wisconsin is “riddled with voter fraud.”

Jump over to Indiana, however, and we see exactly the kind of voter fraud Republicans are trying to protect us from. In February, Republican Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White was found guilty on six felony counts of voter fraud, theft and perjury. This happened despite a 2005 Indiana law that implemented “the strictest voter I.D. requirements in the nation.”

So, there you have it: Republicans are trying to protect our elections from the fraud they commit with their voter identification laws, which have now proven to be completely ineffective anyway.

This is media sensationalism at its finest. James O’Keefe and other Republican campaign strategists have effectively scammed voter fraud into existence.

Even the Justice Department has objected to voting identification laws in multiple states because they would have a disproportionate impact on minority voters. Attorney General Eric Holder has said such laws aren’t likely to make elections insusceptible to fraud.

If Republicans have to make something up in order to prove their point, they probably don’t have a point to make in the first place.

This article first appeared in Being Latino.

Felipe Diaz is a first generation Mexican-American born and raised in Greeley, Colorado. He currently studies at the University of Denver for a B.A. in journalism and political science where he also served as the President of the Latino Student Alliance and Vice-President of the Undergraduate Student Government. He has maintained a personal blog since 2010 where he enjoys writing and discussing topics ranging from politics and communication to culture and entertainment.

[Photo by jasleen_kaur]

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