No, We Don't Need National Voter ID Standards

The worst thing that could happen to American elections is to give Washington, D.C., more power, any more power. Yet I was surprised to learn that many -- including supporters of President Trump who are concerned about election integrity -- want to do just that.

When I wrote this piece for The Hill titled "No We Don’t Need National Voting Standards," I was stunned to see so how many commenters have an appetite for federal, nationwide standards on voter ID.

This would be a colossal, anti-constitutional mistake. The power to mandate or standardize American voter ID laws is the same power that could one day ban all state use of voter ID.  That’s Constitutional Law 101.

Let’s get something straight up front -- voter ID that is free and easy to obtain should be an essential part of each state’s effort to preserve the integrity of elections. It is an important step to prevent voter fraud, but perhaps more importantly, to aid prosecutors in criminal cases when voter fraud is discovered.

Voter ID is good. But that does not mean national voter ID standards or mandates should follow.

The sleeping monster of federalized power over voter ID should not be awakened. Federal power to impose standards for nationwide voter ID is constitutionally dubious.  Republicans and election integrity advocates who want to awaken it, and promote national voter identification mandates or standards, would awaken a federal beast that could ultimately ban those same mandates or standards. All across America, states are fighting the federal government so they may execute their constitutional power to craft and uphold reasonable voter qualifications, especially where keeping non-citizens from casting ballots is involved.

Federal standards over elections are the dream of the institutional Left -- and the nightmare of America's Founders.

The Founders only gave the federal government power to set standards over state elections in two areas. First, the Civil War amendments (the 14th and 15th Amendments) prohibit racial discrimination in elections. Second, Congress has the power to mandate the time, place, and manner of federal elections. That power is limited and narrow, and does not reach the qualifications of electors. It was intended to prevent the states from smothering the federal government by not holding elections -- hardly a danger we face in 2017.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation is now in federal court defending the power of states to set their own qualifications to vote, including election integrity measures like the power to require proof of citizenship. The Qualifications Clause of the Constitution gives states power over their own elections, including the power to pass photo ID laws.

Advocates of nationalization would have to rely on the "time, place, manner" provision of the Constitution. There's no other way to justify national election or voter ID standards. The "time, place, manner" clause, more commonly called the Elections Clause, gives Congress federal power to mandate certain election rules in states when it comes to federal elections. However, photo ID does not squarely fall within the basket of setting the time, place, or manner of a federal election.