Every two and four years the topic of having identification to verify you are a bona fide US Citizen to confirm you are eligible to vote in local, state and federal elections comes up in the news feed and on the debate stage. According to the contributors at ballotpedia.org as of April 1, 2019, 35 states enforced (or were scheduled to begin enforcing) voter identification requirements. A total of 17 states required voters to present photo identification; the remainder accepted other forms of identification.
If you’ve listened to the positions of those who are for or against having ID to allow you to vote you probably already formulated your own opinion on this matter and may see validity on both sides. To me, this is not complicated. Rather than saying there are politics involved with this, which there clearly is, let’s look at it from a centrist viewpoint and see where the biggest contention is on why people should or shouldn’t be required to show identification when they want to vote.
The most common argument I hear about not requiring people to have ID to vote is that it disaffects minority populations disproportionately because they do not have the financial means to obtain identification. Let’s be clear! When you hear that talking point what you are hearing is one of the oldest, racist placating statements that insults any person of color who understands they are being pandered to. What do I mean by that? For starters, when someone uses the term minorities they are often referring to black people. According to the US Census Bureau, they are 13% of the US population. Hispanics make up 18%, Asians make up 5% and American Indians/Alaskan Natives make up 1%. Even if you take away the statements by political candidates when they speak to the black community in an accent or dialogue that is not inherently their own and group together the other minorities I just listed you are still insulting close to 37% of the population.
To say that in a country of over 327 million people close to 37% of them are so poor that they do not have the financial wherewithal to apply for identification shows just how much some people think of them. In other words, what they are saying is that some of the people in that demographic can’t afford to have a drivers license, rent an apartment, buy a house, apply for a firearms ID card, purchase a firearm or apply for a job: all things you need identification to do. Want to buy a car and drive it legally? You need ID for that. Want to go to a meeting in many office buildings in any major metropolitan city? You need ID to show who you are at the lobby so you can be allowed in. Want to visit a loved one in a federal prison? Yup, you need ID for that too. If the only basis of not requiring people to have identification to vote is because they are unable to afford it, make it free at the motor vehicle agency. If you do that you strip away the entire talking point.
Requiring ID suppresses the vote. This is baseless on so many levels. I have voted in many elections. Sometimes I was asked to show ID and sometimes I wasn’t. There was never one of those elections where I was required to show ID that forced me to vote a different way or not at all. For people that say it promotes the gerrymandering of districts let’s first explain what gerrymandering is for people that have never heard of that term or are unclear of its meaning. Gerrymandering is defined as to manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class. If you do an Internet search of the term you will find several videos that go into it more. Essentially what it involves is redistricting to favor the local party in power. It’s a double-edged sword that benefits and hurts both parties. How someone can make the argument that not having ID promotes political redistricting is beyond me. Again, another talking point that has no merit.
What voter ID laws all boil down to for people that are against them is that ‘it makes it harder for people to vote.’ To those that feel that way, I say harder how? We do not live in a third world country or in nomadic forests. Look no further than our neighbor to the south, Mexico. Here is a direct passage from the Mexican Instituto Nacional Electoral website.
In Mexico, the vote is universal, free, secret, direct, personal and not transferable. All persons with Mexican nationality, by birth or by naturalization, who are 18 years of age or older, and have an honest way of living, have the right to vote. However, in order to exercise this right, the law establishes certain additional requirements such as registration of the citizen in the Federal Registry of Voters and possession of a photo-voting card, which is issued free of charge by the Federal Electoral Institute. The electoral registry in Mexico is of an active nature, that is, it is responsibility of the citizens who fulfill the requirements, to attend, carry out and complete their registration in person before one of the field offices or modules set up for this purpose by the IFE throughout the country.
That statement summarizes the position of those in favor of voter ID laws the best. People who are of age and have an honest way of living have the right to vote. In order to exercise that right, they are required to register with the government and are issued a photo ID card free of charge when they do. Some people like Bernie Sanders are pushing for convicted felons and domestic terrorists like the Boston bomber to have the right to vote. Some may agree with him. My belief is that once you are convicted of a crime that violates the laws of our country you lose the right to participate in our democratic voting process until you have paid your debt to society. Once your prison sentence is completed and you are off probation you should be allowed to vote, but not until then. The laws vary on this topic state by state and can change as different parties take power.
Illegal voting is not a crisis but does have a long history of occurring and swaying the outcome of some elections. Whenever I hear stories of dead people voting or vote totals exceeding local population counts it makes me shake my head. For all the talk of Russian collusion interfering with our 2016 election, you would think that those who promoted that narrative would be in favor of voter ID laws. If you are someone who supports free and fair elections you should be in favor of voter ID laws. If all they do is verify citizenship and your right to vote this shouldn’t be an issue at all. A bigger issue to me is why after all of these years of being a nation we do not have one unified voting method. Maybe after the country agrees on whether or not we should require identification to vote our leaders can actually simplify and streamline how we vote. Seeing as how we were able to put a man on the moon we should be able to figure that out. To paraphrase Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, that would be one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.