Opinion: Past the Spin, Why Voter ID Laws Make Sense
Monday, July 16, 2012 - 02:00 PM
As usual, both sides of the fight over voter ID laws are acting so childish that it's hard to have a serious conversation about it. Depending on where you're getting your news, the media noise on this would seem to indicate that the two sides are roughly on equal footing, or even that opponents on the left are winning the argument. But, in reality, polling data shows widespread support for Voter ID laws.
Let's not pretend that the Republicans aren't at least partly for Voter ID laws because it will benefit them a bit, or that Democrats aren't against it because it will hurt them. But as much as the left wingers and race baiters would like to think otherwise, you can't get to 70 percent of the country supporting someone with Jim Crow-loving racists and right-wing activists hell bent on seeing fewer black people vote for President Obama.
Most people haven't even heard the Republican talking points on this issue. I'd venture to say that the super-majority, and then some, that is for Voter ID laws aren't that way because of the (often rather ridiculous) Republican rhetoric, but because having a law that says that you should show some form of ID to verify that you're who you say you are when you vote just plain makes good sense to most people. I've tested this out on a few non-political people, and they thought the same thing. One of them even got one of the two caveats that I think are necessary to make Voter ID fair.
At it's most basic level, requiring that ID makes sense, but it occurred to the aforementioned friend that some people might not have the ID. So, like me and other people looking at this, they thought that Voter ID should have to be coupled with a law that said some form of necessary identification must be made available for free, so even the most poor wouldn't be barred from voting. This would serve a secondary benefit of making it easier for the poor to have identification, which has all sorts of upsides.
Those who compare Voter ID to Jim Crow only have a bit of a point if, and only if, the necessary identification costs money. If it does, then this does amount to a back door poll tax.
With free identification, the Jim Crow labeling just doesn't make any sense. Requiring identification to cast a vote isn't segregation. It doesn't require people to take a difficult test intentionally designed to weed a segment of the population out. It applies to everyone and people aren't crying foul over the requirement for some form of identification with all sorts of other activities that involve interacting with governments.
The left is right about one thing though. The chink in the GOP's rhetorical armor is that there really isn't evidence of much voter fraud going on. A bad salesman, making a bad pitch, doesn't change the merits of the product itself though.
The other caveat I'd add is that there needs to be a way for someone who accidentally forgets their identification to cast some form of provisional ballot, then verify their identity in some convenient way within a few days. I have to stress here that it has to be easy, as I've heard that some states make this somewhat complicated.
Put those three things together - having a free basic state ID, a simple provisional ballot and requiring identification to vote - is one of those rare situations where two plus two equals more than four. I'd even venture to bet that you could get into the 75 percent range in polls if you gave this as an option.
But, as usual, I don't expect many (if any) of the people with the megaphones to be talking this sort of sense. The Democrats will keep playing the race card, passing up an opportunity to try and take the high road, and get proper identification into the hands of the poor in states where they can't already get it for free. The Republicans see the writing on the wall in the polling numbers, and aren't likely to quit spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud. Meanwhile, most of the media seems intent on merely reporting on the battle going on between the two sides, rather than informing people that there is more to the debate than race baiting and blatantly false talking points.