Voter ID and the Value Of A Ballot

The Rasmussen polling organization just released the results of a survey that showed 75% of likely American voters believe photo identification, such as a driver’s license, should be required before a citizen is allowed to vote. Texas recently became the 12th state to require a photo ID when voting.

Support was especially heavy among Republicans at 85%, but 63% of Democrats agreed as well.  The respondents agreed 48-29 that ineligible voters are a bigger problem than the risk of preventing a legitimate voter from casting a ballot.  

Requiring proper identification in order to vote seems like the ultimate no-brainer.  How could anyone possibly object?

NPR host Michel Martin stated the principal objection this way, while moderating a discussion with Republican strategist Ron Christie and Jesse Jackson: “The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, for example, points to Wisconsin as an example.  They say that 78 percent of African-American males aged 18 to 24 lacked a valid drivers’ license.  And the argument is, this does have a disproportionate impact on some communities?”

How many of those folks without valid licenses were planning to drive themselves to the polls on Election Day?

The opponents of balloting ID requirements usually phrase it less gracefully than Martin did, and accuse proponents of outright racism.  For example, Democrat state Representative David J. Mack II of South Carolina said that “in 2008, we had too many black folk, too many brown folk, too many poor folk voting,” and Republicans “can’t have that in 2012.” 

Texas Civil Rights Project director Jim Harrington said his state’s photo-ID law is “nonsense and it’s racist and just cheap politics” because it’s “a way of suppressing the Hispanic vote, which is increasingly important in Texas.”

The idea is that since many minority voters lack valid licenses, and obtaining a driver’s license requires a good deal of effort, requiring them is a form of voter suppression by nefarious Republicans, who have noticed that the minorities in question tend to vote Democrat.

This is a very unappetizing bit of racial generalization from the Democrats, who are implying that voters from certain ethnic backgrounds are incapable of meeting even the simplest requirements for identification.  You can make the case that owning a vehicle is voluntary, and therefore so is obtaining a drivers’ license, so requiring such a voluntary document in order to vote is unfair, but other alternatives are always provided. 

Under the recently-passed photo ID rules in Texas, for example, you can also use a passport, citizenship certificate, U.S. military ID, concealed-carry license, or Department of Public Safety ID card.  The latter can be gotten by filling out a two-page application form and paying a $16 fee. 

It’s an awful stretch to see any of these requirements as an undue burden against the exercise of voting rights.   Make a list of all the things you can’t do without a photo ID, from cashing a check to buying alcoholic beverages, or certain forms of cold medication.  The opponents of photo-ID initiatives are saying the vote is less important and valuable than all of those things. 

There can never be a complete absence of “obstacles” to voting.  You’ll never be able to run into the polling place, scream “Obama for President!” at the top of your lungs, and assume your vote is being duly added to the tally.  If every procedure for establishing the identity of a voter is unreasonable, then orderly elections are impossible.  We are merely debating the nature of the procedure, and how stringently we will verify identity before a ballot can be cast.

We are surrounded by the most incredibly advanced data processing technology ever created.  Its power would have been inconceivable only a few decades ago.  And yet, we’re constantly told that accurate identification is some kind of arcane mystery that can only be solved through outrageously difficult rituals. 

From verifying immigration status to confirming eligibility to vote, the faithful devotees of Big Government insist that routine procedures, followed millions of times per day at private businesses – from banks to nightclubs – are unreasonable burdens for our vast government bureaucracy.  The very same people claim we can make unsustainable programs like Medicare solvent by cracking down on billions of dollars in “fraud, waste, and abuse.”  It’s amazing that anyone thinks they would take our tax dollars and public resources any more seriously than they take our ballots.