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Voter ID Laws and Democracy

            In the months leading up to the recent 2012 presidential election, there was an issue that was all over the news because of the impact that it would have at the polls. That issue was Voter ID laws--laws that are put in place by states which would require voters to show some type of identification before being allowed to cast their votes. The debate about whether or not these laws should be put in place became a heated one in this year's election. It created an uproar among U.S. citizens; some insisted that the laws were necessary to protect the integrity of the vote, while some felt that the laws were unfair because they would make it more difficult for some people to vote than others. .
             Although Voter ID laws just became a hot topic in the public eye within the past year or so, the first laws of this nature came into existence in 2002 with the Help Americans Vote Act. This bill increased federal election requirements by stating that first-time voters who registered by mail must provide some type of identification prior to their first time voting in person. The first state law requiring voters to show identification at the polls came soon after in 2003, in the state of Alabama. So why is it becoming such a controversy now? Well, most states have always encouraged voters to appear at the polls with some form of identification, but it has never been a requirement. Until 2011, there were only two states with "strict" voter ID laws, meaning that voters had to show a form of government-issued identification as a prerequisite to casting their vote. However, protecting the election against voter fraud became a high-profile issue in state legislatures seemingly out of nowhere leading up to the 2012 election. In 2011 alone, at least 34 of the 50 states proposed some type of legislature requiring voters to show identification. 14 of these states already had some type of legislature in place, and wanted to make the policies stricter, in most cases requiring a form of identification with a photo of the voter, or an ID card or driver's license issued by the state.

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