For the majority of Republicans it is an article of faith that their electoral fortunes would best be served by rain on election day — that, despite evidence to the contrary, the lower the turnout the better their chances of winning, or so they believe.
So, it is not surprising that it is Republican legislators, largely in Republican-controlled legislatures, that have proposed and, in some states, enacted laws that would require photo identification at polling places in order for citizens to cast their ballots. But one should take with a grain of salt the GOP claims that these laws are primarily enacted to prevent fraud when the demography of the 20 million citizens who don’t have photo identification is largely composed of people who are poorer, more minority and the more immobile elderly than the rest of the population, a group whose voting history is strongly Democratic but which would have the greatest difficulty in obtaining proper identification.
It does not, however, follow as the night the day that the way for Attorney General Eric Holder, Democrats, minorities, self-named good government promoters, liberals, editorialists and others to deal with the ID issue is to mount, as they now are doing, coordinated frontal opposition to them and assert that fraud in the voting process does not exist. Why?
Because the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision in an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens affirmed the constitutionality of requiring photo identification at the polls. It is settled law.
Because every public poll on the issue has recorded substantial majorities in favor of such IDs.
Because fraud is part of the election landscape, albeit a small part and only in places. But there are people who have voted twice at one polling place and people who vote have voted twice when they are registered and have residences in two states or in different parts of the same state; there are non-citizens who have voted in recent elections and citizens who have voted in the names of the dead or moved whose names have been kept on registration rolls; and Dick Tracy was registered in Ohio in 2008 and a dog was registered in Missouri in 2004. It is hard to argue that a valid and secure ID would not mitigate some of these problems, even if their occurrence is not widespread or frequent.
However, many of the ID laws that have been enacted in the states are not benign with respect to their impact on turnout, the unequal burden they place on those with limited resources and mobility, and on partisan outcomes. A law that requires the citizen to pay for either the ID or the necessary documentation for it or both puts a burden on those least able to afford it and amounts to a poll tax on the right to vote. Since the majority of those who now do not have photo identification are those who don’t drive (or else they would have such identification), offering these IDs only at the Departments of Motor Vehicles or other remote places, as some laws do, makes it difficult for the non-driving majority to get them. These features will undermine turnout and influence result. They should be attacked and challenged, if necessary, in the courts.
But neither requirements for photo identification at the polls nor reversing the excesses contained in those laws addresses the two fundamental flaws in the voting process:
The requirement that puts the burden on citizens to qualify themselves to vote via registration and re-registration should they move. In almost every other advanced democracy, government is responsible for determining who is qualified. All the citizen need do is vote.
The need to keep, maintain and attempt to update lists of those registered as the primary way of protecting the integrity of the voting process and ensuring that only those qualified to vote are allowed to do so, a charge deeply imperfect in its execution despite the best efforts of those who must carry it out.
Because citizens must qualify themselves via registration in order to vote, many find it difficult to do so, and others with low motivation simply don’t, there are an estimated 50 million citizens who are not registered and thus can’t vote. Because the lists of those registered can’t be maintained accurately for a variety of reasons, there are an estimated 20 million names on those rolls who ought not to be there. The first is a national disgrace; the second an invitation to potential abuse.
But because of these two central provisions of American voting law, during each biennial national election and with increasing intensity, the nation has become witness to the spectacle of competing partisan claims: the Republicans claiming fraud and potential fraud, the Democrats claiming real and potential voter intimidation and suppression, with each party at the ready with phalanxes of poll watchers and litigators, costing millions, to protect their interests at the polling places and in court.
Full Article: Curtis Gans: A Proposed Solution to Voter ID Controversy.