Photo ID, please.” An increasing number of Americans will be hearing these words when they show up to vote on election day. In a trend that has gained strength over the last several years and received a boost after the 2010 midterm elections, a growing number of states are passing laws requiring specific forms of photo identification for citizens to cast ballots at their local polling places. While this may strike some as a relatively minor technical adjustment in voting security, what is really going on is far more significant and deeply at odds with Catholic social teaching.
Over the past half-century the Catholic Church has emerged as one of the strongest voices on behalf of democracy in the political realm. Its core social teaching documents, from “Pacem in Terris” to “Centesimus Annus” to “Caritas in Veritate,” strongly endorse fundamental political and civil rights, the rule of law, regular elections and an open political system. The tradition points especially to a need for broad participation in the democratic process on an equal basis for all citizens and warns against the political exclusion of the socially marginalized, especially the poor and racial, ethnic or religious minorities.
Pope John Paul II stated, in his message for the World Day of Peace in 1999, that “all citizens have the right to participate in the life of their community” and that “this right means nothing when the democratic process breaks down because of corruption and favoritism.” Such “manipulated” elections, he said, are “an affront to democracy” because they “not only obstruct legitimate sharing in the exercise of power, but also prevent people from benefiting equally from community assets and services, to which everyone has a right.”
This insistence upon free, open and equal democratic participation is most powerfully directed against autocratic regimes that deny basic political rights, but Catholics in mature democracies as well have a moral duty to heed it and to ask how they can better embody it. Scrutinizing recent efforts to require stricter voter identification is one way to do that.
Full Article: America Magazine – Identity Crisis.