Last session, we had a student paging for the Senate who had turned 18 in time to register to vote in the 2010 elections. Before heading to the polls, she read newspapers and looked at websites to make informed decisions about the races. When she went to the polls for the first time, she handed the precinct worker her voter registration card, but was startled when told she didn't need an ID.
She knew she had to show identification at the bank and when she flew on an airplane — she even had to wear her student ID every day at high school. She had naturally assumed she needed to present proof of her identity when she went to the polls so election workers would know she was indeed who she said she was. To her, it just seemed like common sense. It did to me, too.
In the November election, she didn't hesitate to support the voter ID law. Nearly three-fourths of Oklahoma voters agreed. I was proud to author the legislative referendum putting the voter ID law on the ballot. It was an issue I had worked on for several years.
Then, and now, critics claimed requiring citizens to present ID at the polls would discourage people from voting. However, the facts show just the opposite is true. A study released in 2009 tracking changes in voter participation showed states with voter ID laws had higher turnout compared with those that didn't require identification. Clearly these laws did not have the chilling effect on voters that opponents had predicted. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law, which is considered to be one of the most restrictive in the nation. In that state, voters are required to present a valid photo ID in order to cast a ballot.
In Oklahoma, a variety of options ensure no registered voter will be turned away. You can present a current Oklahoma driver's license, state-issued ID card, tribal membership card, passport or military identification. You can also use your voter identification card, which is issued to you for free by your county election board. If you don't have any form of identification with you at all, you can still request a provisional ballot.
In speaking to various groups about the voter ID law, some argue this is a solution in search of a problem. Many times I'll ask how many in the audience regularly lock their car. The vast majority raise their hands. When I ask how many people have ever had a vehicle stolen, usually not a single hand goes up. They know locking the car doors is a simple thing they can do to help prevent auto theft.
The voter ID law does the same thing for elections. It represents a positive, proactive step to ensure the integrity of the process.