Voter identification laws should be a non-issue

Aside from an economy that’s going haywire, an obstinate Libyan dictator, and a mushrooming level of debt, U.S. officials are sparring over an issue that seems oddly antiquated and minor. Texas, Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island recently passed legislation that requires all voters to show a photo-ID at the polls.

Voter mischief, like mail-fraud or jaywalking, is not exactly an existential threat to American society. Even so, there have been enough flagrant and documented examples over the years – particularly in municipal politics – to make IDs a reasonable initiative. One would assume something as simple as confirming you are who you say you are on Election Day upholds the essential ethics of citizenship and cracks down on voter-impersonation, double-voting, and voting by non-citizens.

Courtesy of www.thinkprogress.org

However, this relatively mundane measure has morphed into a rallying cry for some on the Left, who equate photo-ID requirements with disenfranchisement, poll-taxes, and Dixicrat schemes.

Speaking to the NAACP, former President Bill Clinton likened Republican-backed voting laws with Jim Crow tactics. I guess asking voters to confirm their personhood at the polls with a government-issued slice of plastic is akin to the disgusting discrimination that once dominated the South.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz floated suspicion that the new voting protocol is racist in a U.S. News and World Report June Op-ed, writing that the ID laws disproportionately discourage African-Americans and Latinos from casting their ballots. Referring to his state’s new laws, Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Bob Jauch upped the speechifying, “Jim Crow, move over — the Wisconsin Republicans have taken your place.”

Apparently the conspiracy theory goes as follows: the GOP recognizes that more minorities swing toward the Democratic Party and is therefore in the midst of a covert drive to undermine minority rights. Curiously, this can’t be the case in Rhode Island. Its state legislature is flooded with Democrats who confidently support voter IDs. Democratic sponsor of the Rhode Island bill, Joe Brien, says the approach has nothing to do with partisanship, reflecting, “We as representatives have a duty to the citizenry to ensure the integrity of our elections.”

Back in 2008, Indiana’s voter ID laws were marched to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Crawford v. Marion County. Yet the Court, in a 6-3 decision written by the liberal Justice Stevens, confirmed Indiana was well within its bounds of legitimate state interest to safeguard elections and voter trust. If a voter was unable to produce a valid ID, he could obtain one at the DMV for free. And should the bureaucratic hassle of traveling to theDMV be too much for some, they could even cast a provincial ballot without an ID if they filed with the circuit court clerk’s office in due time. In fact, the plaintiffs weren’t able to produce a single witness who was unable to gain a satisfactory ID.

Indeed, 75% of Americans (according to a recent Rasmussen poll) have no problem with voting stipulations and make light of the supposed ID-induced hassle. I mean, we already flash IDs to board a plane, enter the workplace, borrow a library book or swipe a meal at Sharples.

Honestly, I find it degrading and woefully off-target that some Democrats are advertising the inability of minorities to obtain an ID. How can we say we value the input of all American voters and then create categories of people who, by pure assumption, are deemed unable to complete a simple and universal task. There are other stalwart Democratic contingencies — Jews, union members and college students, to name a few — but I don’t hear the DNC Chairman fretting over them. In the name of racial equality, some on the Left are lapsing into cruel, inaccurate stereotyping.

Data from Georgia from the 2008 presidential election reveals that Georgia had its largest voter turnout in state history, despite it being the first major election in which ID laws were in effect. Amazingly, the black share of the vote jumped from 25 percent in the 2004 race to 30 in 2008, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Yes, this was a watershed election with Barack Obama on the ballot, but Mississippi, which has an equal black population and no voter ID measures, only experienced a 2% jump in black participation. Similarly, Indiana, the state with the supposedly tyrannical voting laws, saw its Democratic primary turnout quadruple from 2004 to 2008. Meanwhile, in neighboring Illinois (Obama’s home state) turnout increased by less than half of the Indiana swell.

To the chagrin of parents, I was one of those slowpokes who thought operating a motor vehicle required an advanced degree in Mechanical Engineering and took eons to learn to drive. There were several instances in which I had to scramble for an alternative form of identification. A state ID might have mitigated this, and it certainly assists others whose geography, health or finances demand an alternative to the standard issued driver’s license.

Voting is the sacred backbone to the American republic. IDs, for all demographics, maintain that structure.

Danielle is a sophomore. You can reach her at dcharette1@swarthmore.edu.

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