If you don’t have photo identification when you go to vote, but you’re registered to vote, should you be turned away? Some Republicans have long advocated that the answer to that question should be ‘yes.’ I’ve lived in a lot of places in my life, especially when I was still a wandering TV reporter. I have never been asked for a piece of photo ID before I voted.
But this week, the Supreme Court of the United States took the GOP’s side, saying that there is a valid state interest in preserving the integrity of the electoral process of Indiana by requiring a photo ID before one is allowed to vote. Has there been rampant voter fraud in Indiana that I missed? I knew I should have checked with one of my TV news producer friends there!
For a little legal background on the Supreme Court case in a nutshell, I give you New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse:
“The Indiana law, adopted by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2005 without a single Democratic vote, is regarded as the strictest in the country. It requires a voter to present a photograph as part of an unexpired document issued either by Indiana or the federal government, a requirement that in most cases can be satisfied only by a current driver’s license or a passport. The state’s motor vehicle agency provides a free photo ID card for people who do not drive, but obtaining it requires a “primary document” like an original birth certificate or a passport.”
Never mind that there has never been a reported case of voter fraud at the polls in Indiana.
When was the last time you read a story about someone trying to impersonate a registered voter at the polls anywhere?
Yeah, I thought so.
Supreme Court Justice David Souter addresses this faux-issue in his dissent, as quoted by Ann Althouse:
“Without a shred of evidence that in-person voter impersonation is a problem in [Indiana], much less a crisis, Indiana has adopted one of the most restrictive photo identification requirements in the country….
“[The law] targets the poor and the weak…. [B]eing poor has nothing to do with being qualified to vote…. [T]he onus of the Indiana law is illegitimate just because it correlates with no state interest so well as it does with the object of deterring poorer residents from exercising the franchise.”
Pauline Park at The Visible Vote ’08 sees a different potential impact from this decision:
” … [T]he combination of a lack of explicit protections from discrimination with a law requiring photo identification to vote could lead to the disenfranchisement of many transgendered voters in the Hoosier State as well as in the other states with voter ID laws but no non-discrimination laws explicitly including gender identity or expression.”
And New Black Woman wonders just how far this law really is from a poll tax:
“Before I started voting, I was under the impression that it was required to show your ID when you go and vote. Maybe that’s because of the state I’m in. However, I’m inclined to think that this will hinder the political process. Historically, as I was taught, politicians have always wanted to limit who was allowed to vote, thus limiting who had ‘control’ over the system. Maybe voter ID laws are another way to limit voter participation.”
11D goes one step further, wondering if we aren’t on a slippery slope toward bringing back voter literacy tests. Reformed Chicks Blabbing, however, think all 50 states should have a voter ID law in place and wonder why this is a problem.
Indiana voters can get a “free” photo ID at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. But you still have to have money to get the initial documents, like certified birth certificates, to prove you are who you say you are. And you still have to have access to transportation or $4 a gallon to buy gas to put in the car. And you still have to take time off from work while the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is open.
Those things all cost money, in one form or another. And that’s why there is a disparate impact on certain segments of Americans who can’t just pop out over lunch to get a photo ID.
For a great perspective on where the true voting problems are in our process, read The Fraud of Voter ID Laws, by Amanda Terkel at The American Prospect:
“Voter ID laws … affect more than an ‘infinitesimal’ number of Americans and are more than a ‘minor inconvenience.’ According to the federal government, there are as many as 21 million voting-age Americans without driver’s licenses. In Indiana, 13 percent of registered voters lack the documents needed to obtain a license, and therefore, cast a ballot. These restrictions disproportionately hit low-income, minority, handicapped, and elderly voters the hardest, leading to lower levels of voter participation.
Those affected also tend to vote Democratic, which may explain why Karl Rove and his colleagues have pursued so-called voter fraud with such zeal. Several U.S. attorneys ousted in the Bush administration’s infamous prosecutor purge even alleged that they were fired because they refused to aggressively prosecute baseless voter fraud claims.”
The real question of protecting our voting process shouldn’t be focused on ID’s. The issues that lawmakers should address if they really want to “fix” our electoral system are faulty Diebold machines and hanging chads.
Because I really don’t want to be reliving this movie again in November.
Cross-posted from BlogHer, where PunditMom is a Contributing Editor for Politics & News.
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