There has been great brouhaha for months this year, as there is every year, regarding movements to restrict voter access. These movements always come up in the months leading up to elections, and they almost always arise from the far right wing. These are always put forth as some means to protect the integrity of the voting process, and yet, they inevitably have the added benefit, unintended consequence,
true purpose, side-effect of targeting demographically likely moderate, i.e. Democratic voters.
One component of this is inevitably the push to require voters to show photo identification at the polling place. Let me give you the simple acceptable solution to this first, and then we’ll discuss the real situation. Shall we? It is so simple and yet, no one that I am aware of has proposed it.
If we wish to require photo ID at polling places to allow voting, then election supervisors must issue voter cords with photos on them. La voila problem solved. Oh, but wait. There are complications with that, too, aren’t there? It makes it much more difficult to have voter drives, and all of the other things that we have instituted in order to facilitate voter registration. There are solutions to these issues. They are not reasons to not implement this solution. For example, for states that allow voter registration while getting your drivers license (so-called motor voter states), the picture that is taken can be provided to the Election supervisor along with the voter registration. If private organizations are going to be having voter registrations then they can take photos and provide these along with the registration cards as well. There are solutions.
However, this is really a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. There are almost no documented instances of this kind of voter fraud in America. That is, the situation where a person walks in and pretends to be someone other than who they are in order to cast a vote. That is the only type of voter fraud that photo ID requirements would address. So, we have these battles to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist.
If we read defenses of these pushes by right wing no-think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, then we find such wonderfully charming, and pointless anecdotes such as:
The fraud denialists also must have missed the recent news coverage of the double voters in North Carolina and the fraudster in Tunica County, Miss. — a member of the NAACP’s local executive committee — who was sentenced in April to five years in prison for voting in the names of ten voters, including four who were deceased.
And the story of the former deputy chief of staff for Washington mayor Vincent Gray, who was forced to resign after news broke that she had voted illegally in the District of Columbia even though she was a Maryland resident. Perhaps they would like a copy of an order from a federal immigration court in Florida on a Cuban immigrant who came to the U.S. in April 2004 and promptly registered and voted in the November election.
There is also the recent embarrassing for Democrats story of Wendy Rosen who voted in both Maryland and in Florida in the same election cycle. (It might ought to be noted that it was her own party’s officials that reported her. It was not the muckrakers from the other side.)
However, what do these things all have in common? Presenting a photo ID would do absolutely nothing to have prevented any one of these things. The only one that it might, possibly have had an impact on was the Tunica case, and even that is questionable for two reasons. One, getting false ID is really very easy. Two, as is so frequently the case, they provided no source. This remains an unverified allegation, and no, I haven’t heard of it anywhere else.
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