There are two diametrically opposed camps regarding the idea of requiring a valid state issued voter ID for a person to be entitled to vote:
Argument in favor: Having a valid photo ID will ensure that people who have been verified as citizens, residents of the district in which they seek to vote and are not felons, in other words, people who actually have the right to vote, will be able to do so while preventing those who are not so entitled from casting a ballot to which they have no right. Thus, we will be able to insure the integrity of our election process.
The cost to the individual who is not already a licensed driver is minimal. No documentation is required beyond that already required by Federal law to hold a job and work in this country. It is not our intention to disenfranchise anyone who is a legitimate voter. Most election jurisdictions have in place procedures where, should a voter not be shown on the official voting rolls, he or she may still vote if two other voters in his precinct or district attest through sworn affidavit that they personally know the individual and attest to his place of residence.
Thus, even if there is a clerical error in a precinct’s roster of eligible voters, the individual affected by this error will not be denied his or her right to vote based on this alternative means of identification.
Extending this means of identification to those who, for whatever reason, have not been able to get a state-issued ID should assuage the concerns of those who oppose the requirement to produce an ID for voting purposes.
Argument opposed: The attempt to require voter identification is unnecessary and oppressive – disproportionately affecting minorities and the elderly. It is little more than a disguised effort to restrict and reduce the number of voters and disenfranchise those who oppose the agenda of the parties trying to pass these restrictive laws.
The requirements for obtaining a state ID vary from state to state. Thus, a voter who might be able to provide documentation in one state, suitable to obtaining such identification, might not have the documentation which another state requires. In the case of Federal elections, this may result in a person’s not being able to vote simply because of the state in which he or she resides. Clearly, the Constitution does not provide to the states the right to make these sorts of determinations which are less than uniform and affect people’s right to vote, merely because of their incidental residence.
While more could be said (and has been said) on the subject, I hope that I have provided a fair and impartial view of the core arguments for both side of this issue. Clearly, there is a difference in outlook on the subject.
I would hope, however, that there are two points with which both sides might agree:
1. Everyone who is eligible to vote should be allowed to vote;
2. No one who is not eligible to vote should be allowed to do so.
I hope all fair minded people can agree with both those statements. In other words, we want our elections to be conducted in a fair and transparent way.
Voter fraud has been around since paper was invented and the ballot box came into being. I refer to some of the shenanigans that have gone on in Chicago because I have seen a great deal of it first hand in the years I lived there and worked as a poll watcher.
Back in the days when paper ballots were in use, some of the wards which were home to SRO’s (Single Room Occupancy “hotels”) which catered to people who were alcoholics and whose primary means of support was panhandling, developed an ingenious system for controlling the voting in elections.
Key to the system was stealing one unmarked ballot. This usually presented little or no problem as, with a dearth of Republican election judges, usually all five of the judges were Democrats and sympathetic to the local precinct captain’s cause.
The unmarked ballot would be marked by the precinct captain and given to the alcoholic voter. After he had gone into the voting booth with the ballot he received from the judges, he would pretend to mark that ballot but in fact he would leave it blank. He would then hand the pre-marked ballot to the judges for inclusion in the ballot box, go outside and hand the blank ballot to the precinct captain. In exchange for this he would receive a pint of whatever alcohol was being passed out that election. The system was flawless and insured that the votes that were cast benefited the precinct captain and his party.
Naturally, this system insured that the votes of all these individuals were tallied just as the precinct captain wanted and, in no small measure, contributed to the massive Democratic landslides that the City of Chicago turned in election after election.
I would hope that liberals and conservatives, people who agree or disagree with the need for having voter ID’s would agree that this practice is despicable and totally undermines the concept of fair elections.
Of course, this example is intended to show how elections can be manipulated, even when voters are legitimate and are qualified to cast a vote.
But before a person may vote for Candidate “A” or Candidate “B”, there is a process which those people must follow so that their names appear on the ballot. That is, there is a nomination process – which almost always include getting a sufficient number of signatures on nominating petitions.
The number of signatures of legitimate, registered voters, required varies from state to state and from office to office. For an individual who is an incumbent or who is well known, this is not a problem. However, it can be a significant challenge for someone who is new to politics and who is not familiar to the voters in his district.
I don’t know how many times I have been asked to sign a nominating petition. The question put to me was, “Are you a registered voter in this district?” I, of course, answered, “Yes.”
“Well, would you please sign a petition to put “X” on the ballot?” Following that question, at least on the part of the more diligent of these signature gatherers, would be a little speech about why “X” was a great candidate for that particular office; why we would benefit from his serving the public; and so forth.
Not once was I ever asked by any of those collecting signatures to show any identification either proving that I was who I said I was or that in any way verified my actual residence. Nothing more was required to make the collector of signatures happy than my name on the next available line on her form, together with the address I wrote down. And therein lies a problem – a very big problem.
This is not to impugn either the good intentions or the integrity of those who feel it is their civic duty to volunteer their time collecting signatures for candidates in whom they believe. But an intelligent person can certainly see that with the nonexistence of documentation that the signatory is actually who he claims and further has a legitimate right to sign the petition, there is much that can slip through the cracks, even unintentionally.
And for the reasons that I enumerated above, that is how Barack Obama got elected to the Illinois Senate – unopposed.
Apparently, his three potential opponents in the primary took some shortcuts when their supporters collected signatures to put them on the ballot. Obama charged (and won) his challenges to a sufficient number of these “voters” as being ineligible to sign the nominating petitions because the signatures were forged. I have no problem with that.
But more importantly, eligible voters were disqualified as signatories because the person who collected their signatures was not himself a registered voter – one of the requirements under Illinois law for a petition to be valid. Proving that fact invalidated the signatures of the twenty legitimate voters on each of the petitions that such a collector had amassed.
Eligible voters who preferred a different candidate to Obama were disenfranchised – not because they did anything wrong, not because they didn’t have a “valid state ID” but because the candidate they supported either didn’t understand the requirements of the law or simply disregarded them for their own purposes – and Obama took advantage of that to his own benefit.
It seems a rather curious irony to me that those people with whom I have spoken who are supporting the President’s re-election consistently object to the idea of requiring a voter to prove his identity as being oppressive and unfair.
I wonder how many of them know that disputing the legitimacy of voters was exactly the tactic which President Obama used to get his first foothold in politics. And had it not been for that, he might still be a community organizer somewhere on Chicago’s South Side and his name a matter of obscurity to all of us in America and the world.