I've been thinking. All this election stuff - it gets my head going. Voter ID; that's what I've been pondering. It is too late for this election, of course, but my thoughts are along the lines of the process and the requirements required upon us. On the plus side, I will spare the reader my thoughts about the Tenth Amendment versus the Federal Real ID enforcement.
Mother Jones says VoterID laws are indefensible. I doubt this is the only topic on which the two of us would disagree. The base argument is that voting is a basic right in this country and should not be infringed. Placing any prerequisite on that right infringes it. So, I get that part, and in fairness, I tend to agree. However, rights are supposed to be universal and inalienable precepts that apply to everyone because they are granted by God (or at the very least the Collective Unconscious idea of human decency) - but not by the government or other humans. Thus, if we concede that voting is something that is endowed upon citizens of that municipality, state or country, then we have to consider whether or not it is truly universal. I believe most would acknowledge that a vote should be permitted only to a relative group; we would not believe it to be fair for an inhabitant of the Pitcairn Islands who has never left southern hemisphere to vote for mayor of the local township. This causes me to conclude that voting is not an inalienable right. Once we can conclude limits can be placed on a "right" then it changes some approach, even though we should try best to adhere to minimize the limits applied.
Almost no one argues that toddlers should vote, but we do agree that toddlers have a right to life and certain other freedoms. Age transcends the right not to be physically or mentally abused, but it does not transcend the right to vote. So again, voting is not really one of the highest priorities among our rights. Further, we previously agreed that citizenship or at least residency is a factor to be permitted to vote. I'm sure many will debate what "citizenship" means in terms for the right to vote, but we are a nation of laws that define that. If we don't like that definition, then there is a system to restrict or broaden that definition. However, the point is it is a valid and necessary limitation.
There is also a voter registration process that is required to vote. Now this is very important. Every county (or parish) in the country requires a person registering to vote to declare who they are and that they meet the requirements to legally vote. Now, here is a funny detail that most people do not actually know - and one about which many politicians misinform their constituents. Federal law requires a person to show proof of identification to register and the first time voting. It is a Federal law. That detail comes from vote.gov, by the way.
Now, what is identification? That varies by state. It is not necessarily a government-issued identification card. It might be a paycheck with a name and address on it. But the point is that it is a form of proof that this registrant is who he or she claims to be. Right here is what I believe to be the crux of all arguments. This is already Federal law. If one has to show ID (defined looser than most like) even once, then producing it for future elections should not be a problem. If that registrant had the necessary proof to be placed on the role and had to show it the first time, then the question of being able to get it has already been addressed.
These leads us to the disenfranchising argument so commonly given. This dispute declares that requiring identification would place the poor and elderly at a disadvantage to have opportunity to vote because having identification is either costly or difficult to obtain. This argument usually incorporates some aspect of race and ethnicity as well.
Frankly, I find that stance embarrassing and somewhat elitist. To declare that a group of people are not as capable as the rest of us because of their skin color, their age, their pay-scale or the location of residence is about as close to the definition of prejudice as one can get. The argument basically says: Black people aren't smart enough to obtain identification. Poor people aren't capable of finding the Department of Motor Vehicles. Elderly welfare recipients lack the mental faculties to understand the system. Wow! It sounds pretty horrible when substituting in the groups referenced generically in the original argument. Some might even call it racist, ageist or a method of steering.
Yet, the biggest hole in this argument is the existing Federal law. Remember? To register to vote, all these "incapable" people had to provide some form of identity and are required to use it when voting the first time. That means if anyone is legitimately allowed to vote, then that person has already obtained identification and Federal law has already required it from them.
Of course the second part of the debate is that there are those who would be allowed to vote but won't because they are discouraged by needing to provide proof of their identity. Well, again the existing law requires this proof at the time of registration and for their first voting anyway. So, if any discouragement exists, it is already on the law books. Requiring it for future elections is not a discouragement if they have already been required to provide it in the first place. Anyone wanting to fight this battle should declare it is improper and disenfranchising to require identification at registration. Until that prerequisite is removed, to declare someone does not have access to identification for future voting lacks logical reasoning. That or perhaps the elitist arguing the point is so advanced that he or she transcends the space-time continuum. (Okay, back to reality.)
Finally, if there is a poor and elderly group afraid to seek out legitimate identification, who won't even register to vote, then we should consider who they would be and how they function in our society. Let's consider those prejudice stereotypes given earlier: poor people, no job, no transportation to go to a government office, living with others not to have a bill in their names. Forget that these individuals could not even legally register to vote, but let's think about who they are and how they survive.
I would have to consider many homeless to fall into this category. If there is a real problem with any of this topic, it is probably here. Homeless persons, despite not being capable of registering and undeterred by the odds they would ever exercise their right to vote, this could be the one area where someone is legally qualified but still disenfranchised. However, I once again remind everyone that it is the registration process and existing Federal law that inhibits them, not voter ID. Even then, some of the homeless will likely fall into the next grouping of the less fortunate. There are those who do not work and live on government assistance. They absolutely have the right to vote, but does identification hinder them?
From my research, I would say no. If someone can provide details where I am wrong, I would welcome it because I would like to be better informed about this. However, it is my understanding that every state requires proof of identification to apply for and receive assistance. Therefore, this group of persons have already met the requirement for voting identification when they complete the process of getting on a welfare program. So, I don't understand how persons in this circumstance can be at a disadvantage by a voter ID requirement. Remember, they still have to comply with the existing Federal law for registration and first vote.
I have read many lists about all the different things for which ID is needed: beer, tobacco, a doctor, a job application, unemployment payments, picking up a prescription, and on and on and on. While that argument hold some merit, it never addresses that there might be persons who live in our country, who qualify to vote, who don't have a means of identification and become disenfranchised. However, by taking that argument at its face value and looking at existing requirements, I believe that anyone would be hard-pressed to find a person who actually falls into that classification. Further anyone we might find is already at a disadvantage to even meet the requirements to register because of the existing Federal law.
Really the only point of voter ID that remains in question is what type of identification should be required. Since every state has different requirements and standards for what qualifies as identification, I would be satisfied with those local registration requirements being used at the ballot box. If your state requires a picture ID, then that's what you need. If it is a pay-stub, then that's what you need. So long as it is always required to prove the person casting the vote really is the person registered to vote. The definition of identification can remain a local one, after all those IDs have already been sanctioned by Federal law currently in place.
Lastly, someone will say all this is unnecessary because voter fraud does not happen or is minimal at best. Well, that's an interesting statement because how would we know? If we aren't tracking metrics of who votes, how can anyone definitively say it does not happen. All said studies are based on prosecution, which is almost impossible without eye-witnesses or a record of proof of who voted. Honestly, I have always laughed a little at that argument. Further, if it is so unnecessary, why do we have the requirement for registration and first vote? At some point, that safe-guard was put into place and believed to be a good and necessary idea.