Some Thoughts On Voter ID

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.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Some Thoughts On Voter ID

  1. Dang! I’m glad your Auntie finally got her ID & that you could help her. I will share this. A few months back I had to renew my driver’s license. I also decided that I wanted to change my party affiliation here. I had been registered as IND because AZ has open primaries & I like to screw the Repugnants if the Dems don’t need me for local primaries. But I decided to make a stronger stand so wanted to be listed as DEM! I thought this would be easy peasy at DMV since I had a valid driver’s license with pic and had been registered to vote and voted every election in this state for over 12 years.

    In spite of that, I was asked for another photo ID plus a credit card in my name to complete my “re-registration” as a “valid voter.” Fortunately, I did have with me my retired military spouse ID and a credit card. I asked what would happen if I didn’t have these items and was told well, you would have to come back to re-register. I can drive and my DMV is only about 15 miles away but it really made me angry. It would have just been an irritating inconvenience for me but a real hardship for others.

    An addendum to birth certificates: Lots of older folks don’t have what are considered “valid” birth certificates despite the pretty gold state seals & the cute little baby feet prints. I found this out when getting a passport some years ago. You got to send away and pay for a real “official” birth certificate.

    All this voter ID bullshit sucks big rocks!

    • My aunt was born at home, so what she had was a “Transcript of Birth Registration” which had been filled out (by hand), and signed by the town clerk at the time, which was in the late 30’s. That, for many years, constituted an “official document” in the eyes of any government. What they require now is a stamped seal (raised, like the notary stamps) on these documents, and in a specific format. Fortunately, a quick call to the local town clerk here (she was born in the town I live in) got her an “official” one for just $10. To get one from the state Dept. of Health costs $30, and you have to wait a few weeks. She had hers in two days.

      It’s gotten ridiculous the requirements they put on those things. I don’t have a second ID card with my photo on it! The only one I have is my driver’s license. Interesting little note though: I went through the “acceptable proofs” here in NY, and surprisingly, a DD-214 is not one of them. Go figure. 🙄

      • A DD-214 should be practically a Gold Certificate! About those birth certificates, I was the first of my parent’s children born in a hospital & I have the coolest certificate with a gold seal and my baby feet prints but my brothers who were born at home had no such grand paper. However, that did not stop them serving each their time in the military as required in those days.

        • LOL! As Donald Trump found out, those certificates with gold seal and footprints are hospital certificates – more souvenirs than anything else – not official birth certificates. Those are issued by the government, basically stating that the birth has been registered with the state Dept. of Health. I had to order copies of my DD-214, because after many years and moves, it was pretty beat up. Yes, they have the official seal on them. 😉 I probably should go ahead and get another “official copy” of my BC, just to be on the safe side. 🙄

  2. sjterrid

    I’m sorry about your uncle. May he rest in peace. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family, and she is very lucky that you are helping her as much as you can.

    I don’t drive. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. I had to get a copy of my original birth certificate, because the one I had didn’t have a seal on it. It is definitely a pain.

    I hope there is something the Justice Department can do. Maybe they can issue free passports to everyone that is eighteen and is eligible to vote. Make an announcement of what they need to send in to get one.

    • Thank you. I’m not doing it alone, fortunately I have a big family, so besides my sisters, my other cousins are pitching in when necessary. I just happen to be the one who can spare some time now. In about two months, when my work schedule goes to heavy, and moving towards “insane,” they’re the ones who are going to be able to spare time. So it works out. 😆 I once said to my sisters that I haven’t had a vacation in the summer in almost 25 years. Every job I’ve had in that time frame seems to go into overload in the summer.

      I grew up in Upstate, so it was a standard thing for everyone to get a drivers license. You turned 16, you got your learner’s permit. That was a given. It wasn’t until I went to college that I found out that it was uncommon for people from NYC to have one. I was just shocked at the level of documentation you’re supposed to have. I rent, and the utilities are part of my rent. The only bill in my name is the phone.

  3. Vic78

    I believe the DOJ will be able to keep the southern states from pushing those laws forward. It’s embarrassing that they’re still pulling this in the 21st century.

    • I sincerely hope the DOJ does. The reason this “sounds reasonable” to people who aren’t aware of its impact on voting is that they really haven’t been through the process “from scratch” in a very long time. Add in the “scare statistics” and it makes it sound like a reasonable solution to a problem. After all, why wouldn’t everyone have a driver’s license or similar ID?

  4. Things get even more complicated if a person has a foreign birth certificate. I know a woman who became an American citizen as a child (she was naturalized along with her parents), but since she is in her seventies, her birth certificate is adorned with a big, fat swastika. Try showing that to somebody…

    • Ouch! That would be … interesting. 😀

      What I learned the hard way was just how complicated and cumbersome the process is. We can thank the “enhanced ID” and “security measures” passed after 9/11 for most of what’s in NY’s ID requirements. 🙄 But that’s what I think most people don’t really understand when it comes to voter ID laws. As I said, I’ve had a license for almost 40 years now. The only time I had to show a birth certificate was to get my learners permit. So I’ve never really had to “start from scratch,” and l think most people – particularly those who advocate for these laws – haven’t either.