I saw this discussion going on here at SUFA during the day yesterday and decided I would wade into these waters with my own thoughts. I won’t spend hours writing, but I will simply offer up what I think and allow the debate to grow from there. There were some who claimed that voter fraud wasn’t as rampant as reported. I am unable to prove that claim right or wrong, although I think that it is clear that there are cases of voter fraud out there. Do they have a significant impact? I think that they can. I also think that in certain races and certain voting precincts that there have been those who fully exploited the system to create a big enough impact. But I will focus only on the concept that has been put forth, primarily by the Democrat party, that to require ID at the voting booth disenfranchises the poor. I find this to be an utterly ridiculous claim. And here is why…
Let’s start with the claim. According to pundits on the left, somewhere between 10% and 15% of voting age Americans do not have a valid form of government issued ID with which to prove their identity at the polls. Take this excerpt from a NY Times article:
Of course the Republicans passing these laws never acknowledge their real purpose, which is to turn away from the polls people who are more likely to vote Democratic, particularly the young, the poor, the elderly and minorities…
There is almost no voting fraud in America. And none of the lawmakers who claim there is have ever been able to document any but the most isolated cases. The only reason Republicans are passing these laws is to give themselves a political edge by suppressing Democratic votes.
The most widespread hurdle has been the demand for photo identification at the polls, a departure from the longstanding practice of using voters’ signatures or household identification like a utility bill. Seven states this year have passed laws requiring strict photo ID to vote, and similar measures were introduced in 27 other states. More than 21 million citizens — 11 percent of the population — do not have government ID cards. Many of them are poor, or elderly, or black and Hispanic and could have a hard time navigating the bureaucracy to get a card.
So where did that number come from? Nearly every single article I can find that lists a source links back to a survey from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. In other words, nearly every single person citing such statistics is operating on info released from a very heavily left leaning source. If we are going to base the claims all on one study, I thought it pertinent to look a little closer to what the survey entailed, because they would have you believe the survey simply asked “do you have an ID?” But that is not what they asked. Here is what they asked in their poll of 2000 people:
1) Do you have a current, unexpired government-issued ID with your picture on it, like a driver’s license or a military ID?
2) If yes, does this photo ID have both your current address AND your current name (as opposed to a maiden name) on it?
3) Do you have any of the following citizenship documents (U.S. birth certificate/U.S. passport/U.S. naturalization papers) in a place where you can quickly find it if you had to show it tomorrow?
4) If yes, does [that document] have your current name on it (as opposed to a maiden name)?
So think about what is being asked. Think about how many people have an ID that would work just fine, but they still had to answer “no” when put under the strict questioning above. For example, I for many years (as a member of the US Army) had a Driver’s License with a picture of me at 16, with my hometown address, and that had expired 3 weeks after I entered the military. I didn’t renew my license until ten years later when I exited the military, because we were not required to do so as long as we were on active duty. After that, my driver’s license has often had the wrong address on it, because working in my last company I moved around A LOT. Mrs. Weapon went three years with her maiden name on her driver’s license after we were married.
Additionally, Mrs. Weapon didn’t renew her passport to her married name until 6.5 years after we were married. Regardless of any of that, ask her if she could find her passport on one day’s notice, and her honest answer would be no. It’s here somewhere, we go on the search each time we realize we will have to use it to leave the country on a trip.
In short, both Mrs. Weapon and myself would have been counted as part of the 10% (that was the actual number from the survey, not 11-15) that do not have ID. Yet we have both voted in every election and under every single proposed voter ID law in the country, we would still be able to vote by providing a utility bill to verify address, a marriage certificate to verify maiden name change, or a passport if we were given more than a day or two notice of when election day will be (since these are widely known, why was this kink thrown into Brennan’s survey, I wonder).
So what does this show us? It shows us that the survey questions were written in a way that causes a drastic inflation of the percentage of voting age Americans who do not have ID. I will leave it up to you to decide whether this was an intentional effort to bolster liberal arguments or whether the folks at NYU are just inept in producing valid data. Regardless of which it is, the fact remains that the data is flawed.
And the conclusions derived from that data are even more flawed. This is from yet another NY Times piece:
Republicans have been pushing these changes for years, but now more than two-thirds of the states have adopted or are considering such laws. The Advancement Project, an advocacy group of civil rights lawyers, correctly describes the push as “the largest legislative effort to scale back voting rights in a century.”
Anyone who has stood on the long lines at a motor vehicle office knows that it isn’t easy to get such documents. For working people, it could mean giving up a day’s wages.
A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that 11 percent of citizens, 21 million people, do not have a current photo ID. That fraction increases to 15 percent of low-income voting-age citizens, 18 percent of young eligible voters and 25 percent of black eligible voters. Those demographic groups tend to vote Democratic, and Republicans are imposing requirements that they know many will be unable to meet.
My favorite part of this was: Anyone who has stood on the long lines at a motor vehicle office knows that it isn’t easy to get such documents. For working people, it could mean giving up a day’s wages. I guess it is OK for the (according to the Brennan numbers) other 90% of the voting public to do, but asking that remaining group to do this is not practical. What a ridiculous statement to make. But I digress…
How do we know that these types of conclusions are flawed? Because they fly in the face of all the other claims made by the same groups. You see, these same folks who claim we will be disenfranchising these voters regular fall on the side of providing more government aid as well. According to their claims, blacks are disproportionately poor, the poor (of any race) are only surviving because of all the government assistance. But what do we know about these wonderful programs of government assistance that overwhelmingly help minorities and the poor?
We know that these programs require ID in order to qualify:
- You need ID to get welfare.
- You need ID to get unemployment.
- You need ID to get food stamps.
- You need ID to qualify for government assisted housing.
- You need ID for Medicare
- You need ID for Social Security
- You need ID to cash a check (including a welfare check)
I think you get the point. All of these programs designed to help those same poor potential voters require that you have a government issued ID in order to use them. And why is it that those programs need an ID? To eliminate fraud, of course. Makes perfect sense to me. Yet the claim is that those same people using ID to access these programs, don’t have ID in order to vote. Further, I don”t hear the left clamoring about that requiring an ID to qualify for welfare is an undue burden on the poor who require it. After all, if they want the assistance, they will get the ID.
Voter ID is not some vast conspiracy by the right to take away the voting rights of millions of poor or minority voters. It is the common sense step to take when we are seeing so many instances of voter fraud (whether you deem them “significant” or not). The only reason to oppose Voter ID is because you wish the fraud to continue, as disenfranchisement is a made up rallying cry using the most effective unprovable claim in modern politics (racism and discrimination).
Further, the concept of Voter ID has been upheld by the Supreme Court’s 6–3 decision in 2008, authored by Justice John Paul Stevens, that upheld the constitutionality of Indiana’s tough ID requirement. Voter ID is constitutional, it is easy to accomplish, it is necessary, and there isn’t really a valid argument against it that I can see. But I will wait to see what the rest of you have to say…