(CBS News) - The right to vote is one of the most sacrosanct responsibilities of being an American citizen - but defining access to the voting booth has become one of the most contentious political issues of our time. Both sides of the political aisle argue that the other side is corrupting the voting process and they each argue their opponents are trying to steal elections.
This week the issue was thrust front and center by Hillary Clinton who characterized measures to restrict voting a part of the GOP's "sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people". She singled out Republicans and neglected to mention that New York, the state she represented, has one of the most restrictive policies for voting. Republicans fired back-- from Rick Perry, to Scott Walker, to Chris Christie (on our show this Sunday), calling her statement ridiculous. But what exactly are the arguments on both sides? Here's our short take:
Republicans argue voter fraud is a real danger to democracy.
1. Why is it burdensome to use a driver's license to register to vote? You have to use it to drive, to get on an airplane, to get a drink at a bar, so why not have to show one to vote?
2. Since there's a possibility of voter fraud the government should guard against it.
3. Hillary Clinton called out Republicans for restricting voting but didn't call out Democrats in the state where she will kick off her campaign: New York, a state with very restrictive voting rights laws. Said Ohio Governor, Republican John Kasich: "If she wants to sue somebody, let her sue New York. In Ohio, we have like 27 days of early voting. 27 days, a couple hundred hours. In New York, the only early voting, there is none. The only voting that occurs is on Election Day. What is she talking about?"
4. This is an issue supercharged for political reasons, bankrolled by liberal billionaire George Soros and pushed only because it riles up a key portion of the Democratic base, namely African Americans and millennial voters. The left uses instances of "restricting the vote" to rile up its base in key states like Ohio and Florida in 2012.
Democrats argue restrictions on polling place access, by making it harder for people to vote, either through ID laws or early voting/polling place location restrictions puts undue burden on some voters, therefore disenfranchising their vote.
1. There are no significant cases of voter fraud. See this Washington Post piece by Justin Levitt, which points to just 31 instances of voter fraud since 2000. A 2007 New York Times analysis pointed to 120 cases filed by the DOJ over five years. If there's such a limited amount of it, why make restrictions on voters? You'll disenfranchise far more people than how many commit voter fraud.
2. Courts have concluded that in some cases attempts to restrict voting have been proven to be attempts to limit the vote.
3. Republicans only talk about voter fraud to rile up their base.
4. Requiring additional forms of registration, and limiting early voting opportunities disproportionally affects the elderly, poor, and minority groups. Those without required documents, or those who work long hours incompatible with polling place hours are disenfranchised.
While both sides play the voting rights card to rally their political base, any election not won at the polls will certainly be fought in the courts, we saw this in the 2000 election. Campaigns will spend millions to have their own lawyers spread across the country on election day to make sure everyone one who shows up to vote for their candidate, will get the chance to.
Washington Post: A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/
New York Times: In 5-Year Effort, Scant Evidence of Voter Fraud http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/washington/12fraud.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/voter-fraud
Heritage Foundation http://www.heritage.org/issues/legal/elections
What states allow early voting? http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx
U.S. Government Accountability Office (h/t @dsandahl) http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-634
Additional reporting by Rob Hendin and Louise Dufresne.