In an earlier post, I talked about the Republican contention that there’s a “massive” voter fraud problem. It turns out that there really hasn’t been much in the way of demonstrated systemic voter fraud, or what scattered incidents there are of it made a big difference in an election. The instances where it does happen seem to have been caught fairly quickly. Milt Shook has a great take on it as well:
Strange thing; the report itself actually cites these figures to make the case that states need to upgrade their registration standards, not to insinuate that the voting system may be rigged because dead people vote. In actuality, the Pew Report doesn’t suggest voter fraud of any kind, a fact Politico saved until its fourth paragraph.
But the misrepresentations in the media about this that Milt points out are used to justify “Voter ID laws” in various states. Obviously, in order to “combat” the problem, everyone must have a verified photo ID. What could be the problem with that? Well, I now know, having been through the process.
A few weeks ago, my uncle passed away, and I’ve been making a few trips to help my aunt iron out the mess he left her. One of the things she had to do was to transfer the title to his car to her name, so she could have her son-in-law take it over. Which, as it turned out, she needed a photo ID for. No problem, right? Well that was what she thought. But, her previous ID had expired back in 2003. No one else had cared about it, but the DMV did. Couldn’t she just have renewed her old one? Well, no, you see, she could only have done that for two years after it expired. Now she had to start all over again.
Which is where the headaches began. They wanted a birth certificate and “six points of ID.” Those are things like credit cards, bills with your name on it, a W-2, Social Security card, etc. All of which have a specific set of “points” attached to them (the birth certificate doesn’t count), and have to total up to 6 points. Yes, it’s cumbersome. To make things more difficult, all of the bills had been in his name, along with the bank account.
So off we went to open her own bank account, get together all the other paperwork needed. Last week, we tried again, only to find out that the birth certificate she’d been using for years, which she had been given by the county clerk many years ago wasn’t an “official certificate.” It didn’t have the stamped seal on it. Which meant going back, and making arrangements to get an “official certificate.” This past week, on the third try, she finally got her photo ID.
So what does this have to do with voter ID laws? New York doesn’t have them, but it points out the hurdles someone has to go through to get one. My aunt doesn’t drive, and her husband took care of the bills and banking. I should also point out that the nearest DMV to her was 25 miles away. Many of the things that most people take for granted about photo ID’s, that they’re “no big thing” to get one, turned out to be untrue. It’s a major hassle.
Now imagine that you live in a city, and you’re low-income. The odds are you don’t have a driver’s license. You probably rent, so you may not have bills in your name, or they may belong to someone else. You don’t own a car, you may not have a bank card, you might not have enough documentation to add up to “six points.” The ID isn’t always “free,” either. So you have to find a DMV, or whichever office has been set up for that purpose, and somehow get yourself there. Then you have to produce a lot of paperwork to prove you’re who you say you are, and cough up a sum of money – which you probably need for something else – to get a card with your photo on it. Just so you can vote.
What that means is that you probably won’t vote. Which is the real point of these laws. These laws are not just “show some ID,” they’re requiring you to show a specific identification. Then they put barriers and restrictions on getting it. Which leads to the real – and intended – result of these laws: Suppressing voter turnout. In particular, suppressing minority turnout.
It’s a move to try to hold on to electoral power in these states. They know if there is increased voter turn out, they’re going to lose, or they’ll have to adapt to the electorate. They don’t want to lose or adapt, so the way they think they can keep going is to make sure that only “the right people” get to vote. Sound familiar? It should, if you look back at history. Many of these same states that are promulgating these laws are the same ones that had “voter tests” for a good percentage of the last century. The amusing part? These are the same people who had absolutely went nuts when a “national identification number” was proposed back in the mid-90’s as a part of the Health Insurance Portability act. But when it comes to “we might not be elected!” they’re now running to get identification laws passed.
While I was against these sorts of bills as a general principle, it was a rather vague set of objections. After all, I’ve had a license since I was 18. I’ve got a credit card, I have bills in my name, I own a car, and have never had my identity doubted when it came to casting my vote. It was more objectionable because it was an overreaction to a miniscule (at worst) problem, and added yet another government intrusion into people’s rights. I wasn’t sure about why obtaining an ID card was a big deal. My recent experience gave me a strong reality check as to why that it is a big deal, and why these laws are so objectionable. It’s just a backdoor way to try to keep people from voting, and it’s something that should not be allowed to stand.