Boss Tweed likely would have had a good chuckle over proposals in Pennsylvania to require every person casting an election ballot to present photo identification. The legendary New York City political boss knew a thing or two about fraud and political smokescreens: two things at play in regard to the legislation being considered in the state House.
Reducing voter fraud at the ballot box is supposedly the main concept behind this idea. If every voter has to produce a photo issued by the state of Pennsylvania or the federal government — don’t you just feel better already — there will be no doubt the voter is who he or she says they are.
Photos, shmotos! Boss would have pointed out that patronage and political payoffs — still alive and well — will trump voter ID any day. As he once said: “I don’t care who does the electing, as long as I get to do the nominating.’’
And if Boss were living in the digital age, he’d know full well that if 20-year-old college students with only average computer skills can produce phony IDs to get into bars, well …
This proposal, like ones nationally and in other states, really isn’t about reducing fraud. That’s where the political smokescreen comes in.
It’s about marginalizing certain voter segments that don’t have or would have difficulty obtaining photo ID, thereby making it easier to identity, influence and control remaining voter blocks.