Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Law

After over two hundred years of doing this, one would think that we would have this whole voting thing down.

But here we are, 2008, and we still can’t seem to hold an election with folks on all sides making the claims that mass voter fraud is rampant.  Indeed, even in the Democratic Primary process one can hardly go from one contest to the next without hearing accusations of voter fraud being tossed about.

It is in this environment that the Supreme Court passes down its decision that states are within their rights to ask for government issued photo IDs in order for people to cast their ballots.

Strangely enough, I don’t find myself on the same side as many of my friends on the left side of the blogosphere.

I see the issue from two different sides.  From the left, there are two very valid points to make; that such laws disproportionately affect the underpriveleged, minorities, and other traditionally Democratic voters, and the kind of voter fraud that such laws would protect against is essentially a non issue.

On the other hand, the potential for voter fraud along these lines exists, and to me it seems reasonable to be able to verify satisfactorily that each person who votes is who they say they are, and is only voting once.  This even more so in a time when identity theft is a particularly serious problem.

So, in my mind, both sides have a point.  If people were unanimously scrupulous beings, then I would be more than willing to say that there should be no identification standards at all, but the fact of the matter is that we aren’t all by nature scrupulous beings.

For me, one of the biggest problems that we face in how we vote for our elected officials is a lack of a nationally standardized system.  Yes, I know that constitutionally states are allowed to decide how they are going to vote, but this creates a convoluted and confusing system that defies scrutiny.  The Help America Vote Act managed to not really help all that much.

And here is where we see disparities from one state to the next that ultimately will benefit one party over another in some places, and benefit the opposing party in others.  In a system that works, however; no party would be benefitted.

So, I think we do need to move to a nationalized system, at least for nation-wide elections.  Voting in California should be no different than voting in Florida which should be no different than voting in Virginia.  Voting should also be an unambiguous event; think Florida in 2000.  Whether we use machines or paper or levers or whatever, it should be clear who a voter is selecting, and there should be a paper trail so that a voter can verify the correct vote was cast and challenge the vote if it wasn’t cast.

And I’m all for some form of government standardized identification… conditionally.

That’s possibly where we run into trouble on this issue.  Not necessarily that ID requirements are wrong; in a nation of over three hundred million people, I believe it to be totally reasonable to have some sort of system in place to make sure that everyone who votes is who they say they are, but instead that the ID laws being put into place now are moving too fast.

They are being enacted without taking the necessary steps to ensure that legal voters aren’t being disenfranchised by the new requirements.  The whole process is moving far too fast, and there are a number of solutions that could take what initially seems to be an unfair move and make it fair.  In other words, no law requiring such identification should be made BEFORE mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that anyone who needs an ID can easily obtain one.

As I’ve said, there seems to be a number of plausible solutions, such as establishing voter’s cards that have the minimum possible amount of information regarding the voter to verify that voter’s identity, and a picture.

These, if the system is set up properly, can be mailed out the moment a registration goes through, and used in lieu of other forms of government ID such as a Driver’s License or a Government Employee ID if the voter doesn’t have one.

Whatever the case, there should also be a QA system in place to ensure that people aren’t being denied identification unduly.

In the end, even a system such as this will not be without its flaws, and that’s something else we have to live with.  What this means is that, as a people, we have to endeavor that whatever system is put in place is fair and open to all.  There are obviously a few who refuse all forms of identification, and for those people, I suppose things just can’t be helped.

But when we talk about folks being disenfranchised by asking for government issued ID, perhaps, possibly, the right question isn’t whether or not we should ask them for ID, but instead ask what is going on that makes it more difficult for these folks to obtain the proper identification and fix that problem instead.

More at Memeorandum: Balloon Juice, Daily Kos, Booman Tribune, The Carpetbagger Report, Outside The Beltway, Buck Naked Politics, Hullabaloo, Think Progress, Bad Attitudes, Sister Toldjah, Shakesville and JammieWearingFool.   Marc Ambinder, Don Surber, Law Blog, The Volokh Conspiracy and ACSBlogObsidian Wings and TPMMuckraker

Note: I’m way outnumbered here, but then, if I was going to agree lock stock and barrel with everything else that folks on the left had to say, there would probably be little reason to read me, wouldn’t there be?

3 Responses to “Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Law”

  1. DrGail says:

    People on both sides of this issue keep seeming to miss the obvious middle ground.

    I work as an election judge here in Illinois. We establish a voter’s identity by comparing their signature at the polling place with their signature on file. The similarity of the signatures is validated by two election judges. If it’s not clearly a match, or the individual has registered by mail and therefore no one has yet verified his/her identify, then and only then do we ask for a picture ID.

    This seems to be an eminently fair system that makes it difficult for someone to commit fraud while not discriminating against those who may lack (or lack the means to acquire) a picture ID.

  2. That would work, I suppose. I mean, going off of signatures would open itself up to forgeries, but really, forgery is… impractical as far as trying to pull off voter fraud is concerned for a bunch of reasons.

  3. DrGail says:

    Well exactly. Why go to all the trouble? If you can forge someone’s signature that well, wouldn’t you use that skill to get something valuable?

    And if you’re using an alias, who cares? As long as you legitimately reside in that district and meet the other requirements, you’re eligible to vote no matter what your name is.

    Pretty sensible system, no?

    BTW, on the subject of election judging:

    Illinois has been a real pioneer in recruiting high school students to work as election judges. This year, they expanded the program to juniors as well as seniors. It’s a wonderful thing to get newly-eligible voters (or soon-to-be-eligible voters) knowledgeable about and vested in the voting process. (Plus, it helps balance off all the blue-haired ladies who are the more typical election judges.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook