The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin, which is attempting to put into place voter ID laws similar to those that have been proposed and/or adopted in many other states. The ACLU is alleging that the voter ID laws disenfranchise voters, particularly minorities and the poor. Meanwhile, Eric Holder is alleging that the purpose of the voter ID laws is to intentionally suppressed minority voters, presumably because they tend to vote Democrat, and is reported to be considering his own lawsuit. In general, the political left has been opposed to voter ID laws, and have rung the racism bell to try and guilt their way to victory. Said Holder at a speech in Texas:
“It is time to ask: What kind of nation and what kind of people do we want to be? Are we willing to allow this era — our era — to be remembered as the age when our nation’s proud tradition of expanding the franchise ended?”
Apparently for Holder and the ACLU, verifying that a voter is actually who he says he is is simply too much to deal with. The fact that people may be disenfranchised because of fraud and improper voting seems to be of little concern to them. It should be. Extra votes and fraudulent votes introduce into the system a level of corruption that we should not tolerate. Voting ranks among the most important rights that a citizen has, and it is just as important that legitimate votes not be tainted by mendaciousness as it is that legitimate votes not be denied for frivolous or malicious reasons.
The history of the Jim Crow South and denial of voting rights through overt acts of intimidation and legislation by private citizens and the government has colored our modern discourse on the verification issue. Opponents of IDs often allege racist motives by proponents and argue that minorities will be unfairly burdened by basic ID requirements. When direct appeals to racism fail, they claim that disenfranchisement occurs because there is a class of citizens that is too poor or burdened to get ID. Both arguments are pathetic.
If racism and outright voter suppression is a real issue, then let us use of the criminal justice system. Certainly our current attorney general will not have a problem pursuing allegations of voter intimidation (well, except if it is implemented by the Black Panthers in Philadelphia) or suppression using all of the resources at his disposal. And, should there be actual cases, he will be wholly justified in prosecuting the offenders. There is no excuse for intentionally denying citizens their legitimate right to vote.
Similarly, if there are instances where there are citizens who find themselves without ID due to financial or other burdens, the solution is to create a system where we get them IDs, gratis. Most people in this country have IDs because they are needed for most of the basic aspects of modern life. Think about what a person needs ID for in this country today. Among many, many other things, you need an ID to:
- Buy alcohol
- Board a plane
- Buy an Amtrak ticket
- Purchase spray paint
- Go to the movies
- Open a bank account
- Enter some federal buildings
- Rent a car
- Get a mortgage
Are any of these things more important or fundamental to a democracy than voting? Do any of these items merit more stringent protections than voting? It is inconceivable that the solution to the problem that there is some small fraction of people in the U.S. with issues getting proper ID is to decide that verification isn’t important at all, and that we should err on the side of, in effect, taking a person’s word that he is who he says he is. Those who oppose identification and verification of voters at the polls are just as guilty of disenfranchising citizens as those that would actively prevent legitimate voters from exercising their franchise. For elections to be legitimate, the must both include all those who have a right to vote and exclude those that don’t. Allowing people to vote who have no right hurts us all and undermines our rights as citizens. In the twenty first century, we possess the money (which is a relatively small amount), technology and systems we need to accurately identify voters. Opponents of ID laws should be working with states to improve our processes, not trying to destroy them.