Another perspective on Voter ID

There has been a lot of debate over the “voter ID” laws passed in Texas and other states. These laws mandate that anyone wanting to vote must show a government-issued photo identification card.  I wanted to highlight the view we usually hear the least of: the people in the middle.  It’s reflected pretty well in Matthew Cooper’s article in National Journal (Everyone’s a Hypocrite on Voter IDs“).

Advocates of voter ID laws worry about people voting illegally. That’s a worthwhile concern. We expect our elections to be as honest as possible. However, there’s been very little evidence of significant voter fraud based on identification. People talk about the possibility of lining up illegal immigrants or others to vote on election day. That overlooks one fundamental fact of American politics: most people don’t vote. Non-voters are one of the nation’s most abundant resources. If you want to pay people to vote, there’s no need to rely on ineligible voters. There are plenty of eligible citizens sitting at home on election day (and remember that Texas has one of the lowest turnout rates in the country).

I have to suspect  these laws are advocated by people who never went to college because it ignores one of the first things freshmen learn: Anyone can get a fake drivers license. If you can get a fake ID that will get you past the bouncer at your favorite bar you can get an ID that will get you past the 90-year-old volunteer manning the polling station. If there’s anything more abundant than non-voters it’s underage drinkers.

McLovin's drivers license

Opponents of voter ID laws fret about citizens not being able to vote. That’s  also a valid concern. However, these laws will impact only a few people who are likely to vote .  Many of those people need a valid ID for other reasons. It would help if we made ID cards easier to were more flexible about the form of ID accepted. Some of these laws do not recognize ID cards issued by colleges. That’s a very interesting choice.

Watching elected officials who were carried into office by large campaign contributions debating these laws while lobbyists scurry about the capitol distributing large quantities of free food and drink  leaves me doubting that the purity of representative democracy is so close to their heart.

I don’t like voter ID laws because we will create new, bigger problems in our rush to solve what is a very small problem. My prediction is that in about ten years we’ll see these laws repealed or diluted because some senior citizens had trouble voting. In the meantime, voters’ wishes will continue to be undermined by organized interests and other distortions of representation that our elected officials have become far too comfortable with.


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