Posted by: bkivey | 29 July 2012

ID’s and Elections

One constant in election cycles, along with obnoxious political ads and politicians trying to look convincing milking cows, is the debate over requiring voters to show ID at the polling place. For most people, this shouldn’t be controversial: it seems reasonable to require people who have a say in how society is run to a) be a citizen, and b) be who they say they are. Requiring that a person present a state-issued ID before they vote seems little enough to ask. Anyone over 18 can vote, and there aren’t any income or intelligence tests, no educational or achievement requirements, no exclusions based on gender or ethnicity. All one has to do is register in the defined time (free), live in the defined district, and show up at the polling place on election day, and vote. It’s pretty damned simple.

Then there are those folks who believe that requiring a citizen to produce ID as a condition for voting is onerous and offputting, amounting to a poll tax on the least capable in society, or as a form of institutionalized discrimination. I could maybe buy this argument if the requirement was for a special voter ID, but that’s not the case. All the voter ID laws ask is that the voter produce any form of state-issued ID. Drivers license, state ID card, military ID, passport (which you’ve got to have an ID card to obtain), pretty much anything with your picture and address on it will do. Most people obtain their first state ID while teenagers when they get their drivers license. I got my first official ID at ten with my military dependent ID card. Even if someone doesn’t drive, not uncommon in large cities, they’ll find out pretty quickly that they have to have some official documentation to get a job.

The requirements for state ID are so manifold that most people take them for granted. If a person didn’t have an ID card, they’d have to be someone who didn’t drive, worked under the table for cash, didn’t have a bank account, lived as a roommate without the knowledge of the landlord, and received no social services. They couldn’t buy any age-controlled substances until they were in their 30’s, couldn’t use any commercial transportation, heck, they couldn’t even check out a rack of balls for the pool table at the bar. They’d have to hope that they never got involved with a cop, because the first thing a cop is going to ask for is ID. Such a person would lead a very narrow, confined existence. I have no doubt that there are people like this, but most state ID’s cost around $20, and all it takes is a few hours and some proof of residence, like a utility bill. I’m not sure that I’d want someone who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be bothered to make such a minimal investment to be a functional part of society deciding what laws I’ll live under and the people to lead.

Opponents of voter ID laws claim that those without ID’s tend be primarily minorities and Democrats. They paint these laws as proof of institutionalized discrimination. This argument illustrates the ideological blinders of the proponent more than any societal problem. It seems that anyone concerned with the integrity of the electoral process would be in favor of any reasonable and, quite frankly, minimally burdensome measures that promote that integrity. To argue otherwise is to say that your political agenda is more important than the well-being of the society at large. If your political agenda is so dependent on people who can’t be bothered to obtain a state ID, then I have to question your integrity and your devotion to the health of the society.

The same people who oppose voter ID laws are the same folks who are always agitating for ‘root cause’ solutions. In this case, the ‘root cause’ isn’t the law, but the reasons some people don’t have ID’s. Yet, you’ll never see activists working to help those without ID’s obtain them. By most accounts, the number of people removed from voter rolls because they couldn’t produce ID is very small indeed. Small enough, that if a few activists got together, they could easily afford to pay for those folks ID cards. Problem solved, and the integrity of the election process is upheld. But that’s not what happens. What happens is activists organize marches and protests from the allegedly affected. This does nothing to solve the problem, but does expose the activist’s real agenda. That agenda isn’t to solve any problems, but to make a lot of noise so they feel like they’re relevant.

 

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