Article: Why Opponents are Destined to Lose the Debate on Photo ID and Proof of Citizenship Laws: Simply Put – People Want Secure and Fair Elections

Not many would argue that banks should leave their front doors and vaults unlocked, even in towns lacking any reported cases of bank robbery. To the contrary, many banks and other places of business have security onsite despite the fact that they have never experienced a robbery or security incident. Yet, the line of reasoning that voting security laws are unnecessary because voter fraud is insufficiently widespread is consistently asserted by opponents of photo identification (ID) and proof of citizenship laws.1  Besides the fact that the premise is demonstrably false, the conclusion drawn by the opponents of these laws is an untenable one. It is no wonder that during the 2011 legislative session more states than ever before enacted photo ID and proof of citizenship laws.2

It is clear from the legislative activity in 2011 that proponents of voter ID and proof of citizenship laws are winning the debate in the court of public opinion. Beginning with Kansas, a total of seven state legislatures enacted laws to require photo identification at the time of voting, or to require proof of citizenship at the time of registration: Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, and Rhode Island.3  Then the voters of Mississippi added to this string of successes by passing a photo ID ballot issue in November 2011.4  Additionally, proponents of election security legislation are set to win the debate in the judiciary. This article outlines why photo ID and proof of citizenship laws are likely to become commonplace across the country by examining the Kansas Secure and Fair Elections Act (SAFE Act) in the context of the national debate on voter security laws.


Kris W. Kobach: Kansas Secretary of State. A.B. 1988, Harvard University; M. Phil. 1990, Oxford University; D. Phil. 1992, Oxford University; J.D. 1995, Yale Law School.

  1. See, eg., Voter Fraud—The Solution in Search of a Problem, COMMON CAUSE (Mar. 25, 2011),; Oppose Voter ID Legislation—Fact Sheet, AM. CIV. LIBERTIES UNION (July 21, 2011),; see generally The Voter ID Laws is an Expensive Solution in Search of a Non-Existent Problem Before the S. Comm. On Elections & Local Gov’t, 2008 Leg., 82d Reg. Sess. (Kan. 2008) (statement of Dan Winter, Exec. Dir., Am. Civil Liberties Union of Kan. & W. Mo.). []
  2. See Voter Identification Requirements, NAT’L CONF. OF ST. LEGISLATURES, (last updated Sept. 8, 2011). In 2011, twelve state legislatures passed strict voter ID legislation; however, five governors vetoed the bills. Id. This is compared to four states in 2005, the session with the second most activity. Id. []
  3. See KAN. STAT. ANN. § 25-2908(d) (2011); WIS. STAT. § 6.79(2)(a) (2011); TEX. ELEC. CODE ANN. § 63.0101 (West 2011); TENN. CODE ANN. § 2-7-112 (2012); S.C. CODE ANN. § 7-13-710 (2011); ALA. CODE § 17-9-30 (2011); R.I. GEN. LAWS § 17-19-24.2 (2012). []
  4. On November 8, 2011, Initiative 27 requiring any government issued photo identification before being allowed to vote was passed by a vote of sixty-three percent to thirty-seven percent. Joe Scott, Voter ID Initiative Approved, THE DAILY MISSISSIPIAN, Nov. 9, 2011, available at []