April 01, 2005
Mary Denny is everywhere

It's not just Texas that's aiming to make voting harder.

Legislation that would require voters to show photo identification before casting ballots has touched off fierce debate in three states, with opponents complaining the measures represent a return to the days of poll taxes and Jim Crow.

I think we all know how I feel about this, so I'm just going to note two things here:

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, noted that people already need photo ID for basic bank transactions. "Is everyone a racist? Are bank tellers racist?" he said. "I simply don't believe it is going to have the effect that they claim it does."

South Dakota enacted a photo ID law last year but allows voters to sign a one-paragraph affidavit of identity if they do not bring ID to the polls. In the November election, 2 percent of voters signed the affidavit, said Secretary of State Chris Nelson, a Republican. But some counties with large numbers of American Indians saw up to 25 percent of voters arrive at the polls without photo ID, he said.

"There are people that simply don't have photo identification," he said. Similarly, in Georgia, the state chapter of AARP estimated that 36 percent of Georgia residents 75 or older lack driver's licenses.

First of all, to Todd Rokita, banking is a private transaction, and as such is (within reason) subject to the whims of one party or the other. Voting, on the other hand, is a right. There are those who say it's the most important right that we have as citizens. People get mighty testy when it's their rights that are being restricted. Do the letters ACLU and NRA mean anything to you, Todd? Think about the sort of things that sets those folks off, and then ask yourself if they're more akin to banking or voting. Now put it together with numbers like "25 percent of American Indians" and "36 percent of Georgia residents 75 or older". I for one think it's worth kicking up a fuss to protect the Constitutional rights of all those people.

Opponents of Indiana's measure contend there is no solid evidence of fraud at the polls. But supporters argue that perception matters as much as reality, and people who think fraud is going to cancel out their ballot will not bother to vote.

Now here we have some empirical claims. We've discussed the question of how widespread are the alleged problems that these measures are supposed to address. When proponents of these bills can show me some numbers, then we can talk about possible remedies. As for the second assertion, it seems to me that a few polls with non-leading questions should settle the issue of how much people are actually worried about their vote being cancelled out. I'd wager that more of them are worried that without a verifiable paper trail their vote may not be counted, but then I'm just a cranky leftist. Show me some numbers, then we can talk.

UPDATE: Via Political Wire, the Georgia Lege has done the deed. Shame on them.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 01, 2005 to National news | TrackBack

I think the voter's registration card or a state ID/passport should be required to vote. I don't think, however, both should be required.

On the other hand, I needed my driver's permit and passport to change my address at the bank yesterday. What's worse is that I'm an employee of said bank. :-)

Posted by: William Hughes on April 1, 2005 9:07 AM

Showing an ID to vote = poll tax and return to Jim Crow. What an asinine comparison.

Posted by: snrub on April 1, 2005 10:45 AM

A photo ID for receiving funds through the bank vs the ballot box? Those proposing the change wouldn't understand the difference. I guess it's also high time we set down criteria for determining when the image and the person are not of a sufficient match to qualify for casting a ballot (note that this is a sarcastic remark), after all: that is why we're printing the ID.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on April 1, 2005 12:49 PM