Opinion: Voting in America is a Privilege, Not a Right

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 03:30 PM

Walk into any grocery store and put a six-pack of beer at the cash register. Chances are, the clerk will ask to see your identification.

Suffering from allergies as I am this spring? A trip to the pharmacy will require you to produce government-issued ID before purchasing certain allergy medication.

Heading to Eric Holder's Department of Justice to meet with an official about anything? Your ID will be taken and reviewed to prove you are who you say you are.

And yet, with increasing frequency and intensity, Democratic lawmakers, civic activists and many in the mainstream media criticize efforts to require voters to produce photo identification before they have the privilege to cast a ballot in a state or federal election.

My use of the word privilege here is intentional—the right to vote is something that can be taken away. Opponents of voter ID requirements claim something far more disturbing and sinister: this is nothing more than a Republican effort to take away the ability for minorities and the poor to cast their ballot. A poll tax, some say. A return to Jim Crow, say others.

It disturbs me greatly that some fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King helped ensure equal protection for blacks, actions taken to preserve the integrity of the ballot box are equated to the bigotry and hatred that we have largely overcome in decades past. Further still, the notion that blacks are unable to obtain ID or will feel intimidated in doing so only perpetuates a stereotype that blacks are inferior—the same notion that advocates of Jim Crow believed then and now. Why would so-called civil rights leaders play into this disturbing narrative?

Identification is a fact of ordinary American life in the 21st Century. A few years back, the Supreme Court held that Indiana’s stipulation to produce ID prior to voting did not discriminate against any particular individual and that doing so was reasonable to protect the ballot box. So long as efforts are taken to ensure such identification is provided to citizens free of charge and that the process is not overly burdensome, I see no problem with a state imposing this minimal but necessary step.

At its core, this issue has little to do with Democratic fears of Republicans seeking to marginalize the rights of the poor and minorities to vote. Instead, this has more to do with a demoralized Democratic base—demoralized as the candidate of Hope and Change has emerged as a polarizing and unpopular president.

A quick way to fire up the base and change the subject from the President’s record? Play a race card from the deck of political manipulation.

This is cynical, destructive politics at its worst. And a final item to consider: perhaps there is an ulterior motive for Democrats stymying efforts to produce identification in order to vote. Perhaps they need those who aren’t legally eligible to vote to do so.  That sounds more plausible to me than the trumped-up charges that some people, mostly Republicans, favor a return to the dark days of the segregated South.


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Comments [8]

Don Morgan from Arizona

Who are these dip sticks saying Voting is not a Right it is a privilege, Not!!! now if ever meet one of this stupid idiots then I will have the Privilege of knocking them on their ass

Aug. 21 2012 09:36 PM
michael weber from MN

The entire idea of the Revolution revolved around the idea of REPRESENTATION in the matter of taxation. The entire argument for a new Constitution revolved around a direct Democracy or a REPUBLIC and the only issue which Washington ever expressed an opinion was about FAIR REPRESENTATION. Which is the written into the Constitution in Article One; "The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative"

There is little doubt that In order to be FAIRLY REPRESENTED EVERY CITIZEN has a right to vote for who most closely REPRESENTS their VIEWS.

VOTING IS A RIGHT UNDER THE 15th Amendment. Section 2 contains a general prohibition on voting discrimination, enforced through federal district court litigation. Congress amended this section in 1982, prohibiting any voting practice or procedure that has a discriminatory result.

Furthermore VOTING IS A RIGHT. Under the Constitution RIGHTS CANNOT BE ABROGATED BY STATE LAWS WHEN THEY STAND IN contravention of those RIGHTS.

Your argument is contemptuous sophistry meant to obfuscate your real intentions which is to disenfranchise potential Democratic voters. And the fact of your ethnicity makes you a Quisling!

Apr. 20 2012 06:37 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Sorry, Ron, obtaining a photo ID is not free in any place and amounts to a poll tax. Here in New Jersey, a non-driving photo ID is $24 and the applicant must pass a '6 point identification verificaton'. Four points for birth certificate, passport, etc.; and so on thru 1 point for Social Security card. We only have to produce ID to vote the first time at a new polling place. After that, the pollworker has your signature and knows who you are. If all those states who are now requiring photo identification had followed the same scheme, there would have been much less ruckus. Why make Granny - anybody's Granny - who has voted in every election since Truman at the same place now do something different? Of course, new voter registration procedures need to be kept secure.
Voting is a right...not a privilege...How about we treat it like one?

Mar. 22 2012 08:32 PM

That's nice that you think voting is a "privilege," not a "right."

However, the United States Constitution, which (in case you'd forgotten) is the highest law in the land, disagrees with you.

The 15th Amendment clearly states: "The RIGHT of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

The 24th Amendment also makes it clear: "The RIGHT of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."

Voting is a right, belonging to each and every citizen of this country, except under certain circumstances (such as felony conviction) where it can be taken away from a person due to their own violation of the social contract.

Please do tell me what part of the social contract was violated by those who lack photo identification.

Mar. 22 2012 01:01 PM
Marcello from Brooklyn

I agree 100% with the need for identification when voting. In most of Europe, including the country I am from, you need identification when going to vote.
What I, on the other end, find pathetic, is Mr. Christie's effort to pretend that there is no conservative effort here to keep many potential democratic voters from exercising their franchise. It's true that, in theory, "so long as efforts are taken to ensure such identification is provided to citizens free of charge and that the process is not overly burdensome" there should be no reason not to have ID at the polls. But the concerted effort on the part of conservatives to make this a priority at this point in time, all around the country is obviously a well organized effort to exploit the system to their own advantage. Already in 1980, the republican activist Paul Weyrich stated in front of a conservative audience that "low voting participation translates in a advantage for the right". As evidence, one should only consider that requiring IDs at the poll is not the only voting-suppression tactic used by the GOP. Ending same-day voter registration; imposing onerous requirements upon voter registration drives; regarding student ID cards as an insufficient form of documentation to vote while accepting gun licenses. All these tactics are all pointing to a very clear objective: suppression of the democratic vote. Something quite evident to everyone, except, apparently to Mr. Christie.

Mar. 21 2012 11:49 PM
Darrell K Whitfield from Cincinnati, OH, 45237

I think you are pretty much right on since photo id whether driver's license or a state id for almost anything no matter what you economic or social staatus is. It think when I listen to MSNBC that I am listening to people out of touch with the average American.

Mar. 20 2012 10:33 PM

"That sounds more plausible to me than the trumped-up charges that some people, mostly Republicans, favor a return to the dark days of the segregated South"
"The segregated South" which was completely controlled by the Democratic Party for over a century by the way.

Excellent article.

Mar. 20 2012 06:19 PM
Bob Ostrander

"Demoralized Democratic base"? You've been listening to too much Republican propaganda calculated to cause divisiveness. When you're told something often enough you'll believe it must have at least a grain of truth. When the popular press reports the current talking points of the Republican machine as told by Fox News it gives some credence in some people's minds.

That's how we went to war. That's how we let let our financial institutions become unregulated. That's how we stay blind to the megabucks being poured into the for-profit candidates and for-profit legislators.


Mar. 20 2012 04:46 PM

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