Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fighting the Unknown

One of the biggest debates this year has been the new voter ID laws that have been passed in several important states, primarily by strong Republican majorities. Those who oppose these laws point out that there is little to no evidence of voter fraud being a problem, and definitely no evidence that it is an epidemic problem requiring legislation that very clearly disenfranchises large numbers of voters.

Those who support such measures say that voter fraud is a huge problem, and that we don't know about it because there's no way to find out when it's happening. It's very convenient that we are in the midst of a crisis of voter fraud, which we can't track and can't predict, but that will be completely stopped by requiring voters to show a photo ID. And, if those laws prevent millions of people across the country from voting due to a lack of such ID, well, then that's just an unfortunate side-effect to maintaining the validity of our voting system.

But John Stewart takes the Republicans to task in his latest Daily Show by pointing out that even Republicans can't seem to find evidence that would suggest these laws are necessary. Furthermore, it's been shown that while states with voter ID laws have allowed for ways for voters to get free ID's from the state, they require a photo ID to obtain, making them superfluous.


samp said...

To vote you need to be a citizen; to be a citizen you need to speak English with a few exceptions; so what is the big deal to prove you are who you say you are? When you register to vote doesn't everyone need to present some form of ID to prove they are eligible? Also, don't most if not all have to swear to all this? Once on the voter rolls what's the big deal to show that they are to same person on the list? Voter fraud problem or not being real...what is real is that you should be required to prove that you have a right to exercise the most scared of all responsibilities afforded to a citizen of this great country. Why is it when something like this comes up it always takes on a racial overtones? Amazing.

Chain-thinker said...

Yes, but here's the thing: there are people who registered to vote who no longer have a photo ID. For example, a person living in the inner city who does not have a car has no need for a driver's license. Therefore, they may be registered but do not have the required photo ID. And as you point out, there are plenty of ways to make sure this is the right person when they register to vote.

Here's a better solution, in my opinion: when a person registers, have the registrar snap a photo of them to keep with their registration. Then, have those people go back and take a new photo every 5-10 years or so, to make sure it stays constant. This can be done at no cost to the voter, and will fill the photo ID requirement, right? Then, when that person goes to vote, have the voting place keep a digital archive that contains the photos of every person who is registered in that district, and compare the photo to the person who is coming in to vote?

This solution would bypass the problems that come with requiring each person to have a photo ID. By one estimate, 10% of eligible voters in Pennsylvania would be barred from exercising their constitutional right to vote because they are required to purchase something that they don't have. This is the new generation of poll tax, which was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the mid-20th century. It's the same principle with a different name.

samp said...

I think your idea of a photo at the time they register is a good one. As for PA, I understand the PA authorities are willing to allow a free photo ID. Sarcastically speaking I'd bet they'd get a photo ID and walk a mile to collect their government assistance check. But they won't move an inch to get a proper ID to vote.