Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Political Reform, Lesson 12: Relaxing Voter ID Laws

In an effort to quash widespread, nefarious, bring-down-the-republic voter fraud, a number of states have decided to crack down on the massive numbers of people who are attempting to register to vote illegally. Only problem is, there isn't a shred of evidence that there's any significant voter fraud going on in the U.S. of A. But really, who needs evidence anyway? With all the evidence we have of election fraud on the part of partisan officials, who has time to investigate the voters? Just assume the fraud is there, okay?

Here's how officials are combating this epidemic (if there actually was any fraud going on it would seem reasonable enough on the surface): simply require voters to produce identification, or better yet, photo identification, when they arrive at the polling places to vote. For most of us, that's no problem. Our driver's licenses have our image right there in living color. Or maybe, even if we don't drive—and plenty of people don't—we work at a place or go to a college that requires us to wear photo ID badges. We're good to go.

So what about those people who don't have photo IDs? That would include the poor, the elderly, and the disabled, among others. How can they produce a photo ID when they may not drive or even work?

Well, the great state of Georgia, among others, proposed that they fork over $35 for an official state photo ID. That’s a lot of money to people on a fixed income; believe me, I know. But that’s not all. The poor, the elderly, and the disabled would have been required to travel—in some cases, hundreds of miles—to a limited number of state offices to get that ID. Who are the people who think up these things? How incredibly out of touch with the realities of everyday life do you have to be in order to be in charge of elections?

Unless, of course, the whole idea is vote suppression, but we know that can’t be the case. Oh, wait. What did Paul Weyrich say? That a high voter turnout could be counterproductive? Right.

In 2006, and in some of today’s Super Tuesday primaries, voters were asked to show photo IDs even though there was no legal requirement that they do so. Also in 2006, minorities in New York City were asked for photo IDs while whites were not asked for any form of ID. Some states are trying to require proof of citizenship, which also seems like a no-brainer, but some people—again, most often the very poor—have no birth certificate and no way to obtain one.

One of the best sources for information on unnecessarily restrictive voter ID measures is NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, as well as myriad other organizations that are trying to—of all things!—increase voter participation rather than suppress it.

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