Posted on September 29, 2012


Like perennials or mating season, it’s that time of the year (well, that time of the voting year, anyway): time to fight over voter ID laws.  Seriously?  I mean sure, this issue has been going on for the past twelve years, but the history of electoral fraud conceivably goes back to the earliest days of democracy.  But this is the 21st century.  Surely we could resolve the issue in the course of a decade.

Yeah… that’s probably putting too much faith in mankind.

So with the renewal of the topic comes the campaign ads.  This one caught my eye for several reasons.  Really, it’s a good video.  It flows well, it’s humorous and thus holds my attention, and it makes some good points.

Would that it were completely accurate…

I want to address the issue in a more precise manner.  First, what is voter fraud?  The proper term is electoral fraud.  It’s basically a catch-all phrase for a situation where someone tries to rig an election by producing illegal or falsified ballots.  It’s not an easy thing to do; at least, not anymore.  The public consciousness is aware of what’s involved with voting and what it stands for.  So much so, in fact, that some have taken to challenging voter fraud even where it doesn’t exist.  Here’s a few claims that these self-appointed watchdog groups investigate: dead voters; busloads of illegal (out-of-state or non-citizen) voters; poll workers not following proper ID procedures.  The problem is that, while these things might happen sparingly (except the bus; that’s never been proven), there’s no real cause for alarm because 1) it doesn’t happen often enough to make a significant difference in the results of an election and 2) whenever an election’s results are close, all it takes is one phone call to force an investigation, which will reveal voter fraud.

So there’s no real concern over voter fraud.  Certainly not enough to warrant the time and energy put into these watchdog groups.  Which leads me to agree with Silverman’s analysis: Republicans and conservatives perpetuate the idea of voter fraud so they can enact legislation that will help them win by disenfranchising those groups that are likely to vote the other way.

But something doesn’t seem right.  According to Let My People Vote, the voter ID laws are “not nonpartisan efforts.”  They’re pushed by Republicans.  I get that, and I understand the logical conclusion, but it still doesn’t make sense to me.  Are Republican leaders so ignorant as to believe that this could actually work in their favor?  Do they really think that no one’s going to notice their shenanigans?  Are they just that stupid?  There’s got to be something else going on here…

What are voter ID laws?  Why were they drafted in the first place?  What do they actually accomplish?  The latter question is answered, in part, by the above analysis: voter ID laws serve to make it harder for certain groups to vote (a conclusion that I’ll address again before this post is done).  As to the former: voter ID laws generally require unregistered voters (when they show up at the polls) to present proof of identification in the form of a picture ID.  Most people have a driver’s license or state ID.  Some do not.  Presumably, then, the people without ID cards are denied their right to vote because they don’t meet the requirements for these laws.  This makes them bad laws.

Sort of.  The question I’m still trying to answer is this: why do the laws exist in the first place?  Maybe, at one point, they were drafted to combat claims of voter fraud.  But as we’ve seen, there’s no evidence to support that claim.  I think it’s easier to assume that there’s another reason.  Look at it this way: either 1) Republicans are trying to keep certain groups (that typically vote Democrat) from voting by enacting morally reprehensible and obviously transparent laws; 2) Republicans are trying to prevent voter fraud, despite the clear lack of evidence that voter fraud takes place on anything even close to a meaningful scale; or 3) Republicans drafted these laws to prevent illegal immigrants from voting, but they’re afraid to cite that reason because they’ll be attacked for discrimination.

So do illegal immigrants vote?  I say it stands to reason.  Combined with the number of illegal immigrants in this country (estimates vary from 7 to 20 million) and the incentive to keep the Democrats in power, I think Republicans have a genuine concern.  I know that if I were in America illegally, and I had already taken steps to get a job, I would vote for anyone who’s sympathetic to my situation.  Naturally, that’s a problem; the right to vote is a defining characteristic of citizenship.  It makes sense that states would have some form of identification process in place when people come to vote.

I agree with Silverman (and others) that these laws don’t exactly make sense.  Those are the ones that need to change.  For example, a veteran’s VA card should count; it has a picture on it and anyone can use it to verify the individual’s identity; a student ID card should work, too.  But apart from that, the laws make sense.  If you’re a citizen of the United States, you should be able to prove it.  You should have a social security card or a birth certificate.  As long as you have that, you can get an ID card.  Voter ID laws just make it a lot harder for illegal immigrants to vote; they don’t prevent citizens from voting.

So this is where I have to pause and take a moment to reflect in a less-than-analytical manner.  As I reflect on these thoughts, it occurs to me that there’s a lot of whining and crying going on here.  Silverman, for example, says in the video that the elderly, black people and students are disenfranchised by these laws because the laws make it harder for them to get the proper identification.  First of all, how hard is it to get an ID cardNot very.  So why is it that (according to Let My People Vote) 25% of black people don’t have a valid ID?  Are they not American citizens?  Are they not legal residents of a state?  Then they should be able to get a fucking ID card.  Oh, what about the homeless?  At least a few states make allowances for them in the paperwork process.  What about people who can’t afford the fees?  Look, the fees for ID cards are about $20-30; if you can’t afford that, you have bigger issues to be concerned with than voting.

The right to vote is a right of citizenship.  I understand that, and I agree that we should not place any undue requirements on people who want to exercise that right.  But if we take that concept to the extreme and have no requirements, then we allow non-citizens to vote.  That’s wrong.  Furthermore — and this is an idea that I haven’t seen yet — a right should come with responsibility.  I have the right to speak my mind.  I have the responsibility to say things that are worth talking about.  If I choose to waste my right on senseless dribble and idiotic mutterings, then my audience will go away.  I have the right to live my life as I see fit (within the realm of common decency).  I have a responsibility to do just that — live my life within socially acceptable boundaries, such as not breaking the law or causing a disturbance to my neighbors.  So, as I have the right to vote, I also have a responsibility to follow the proper procedures; to register early so I don’t waste time at the polls; to have an ID card so I don’t have to do extra work to verify my identity; to be informed about my choices so I’m not throwing my right into a pile of shit.

One last thing: Republicans, you are fucking things up really bad.  First, just tell people that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they’re not legal citizens (what a concept!).  That’s why these laws exist.  Then, write the laws so that it fits the purpose.  In other words, a veteran’s VA card should count.  Republicans, please follow my advice.  Pick a solid reason for your new law, then write the law so that it makes sense.  If you do this, you won’t be giving ammunition to your opponents.  The American people are intelligent, but only to a point.  They’re more inclined to follow emotional responses and gut instincts than logical, rational thought.

Yes, I see the irony in that statement…

Posted in: Politics