IDs at the polling place

I went into the local hardware store yesterday looking for a 1 1/2″ socket. They didn’t have any (Excuse for the new American economy: “they’re held up in customs.”), but I picked up some other doodads, went to the checkout, swiped my bank card through the machine when the cashier asked me for identification.

The step-back moment: I had to show my identification to buy a pair of work gloves at a hardware store. If I want to vote for president of the United States, all I have to do is sign a paper on a line next to the name of the person I claim to be.

When you bring up the idea of requiring proof of identity to vote, it starts a big fight, which the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to — sort of — today when it ruled that an Indiana law requiring ID is constitutional and does not impose an undue burden on voting. A lower court judge had said the opponents of the law had not presented a single Indiana resident who would be unable to vote under the law. The opponents had claimed almost a million people didn’t possess the needed documentation.

Rep. Keith Ellison filed a brief in the Indiana case opposed to the ID requirement.

Justice Paul Stevens’ money quote in his opinion:

But just as other States provide free voter registration cards, the photo identification cards issued by Indiana’s BMV are also free. For most voters who need them, the inconvenience of making a trip to the BMV, gathering the required documents, and posing for a photograph surely does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote, or even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.

Indiana has a high number of Amish residents. For the Amish, photographs are not acceptable, leading to an assertion that the law there infringes of religious freedom.

In Indiana, as in Minnesota, this appears to be a partisan issue. Republicans voted for the law. Democrats voted against it. Just take a look at the party breakdown on the vote on an amendment earlier this month that would have required more stringent identification in Minnesota.

Republicans will says Democrats just want to engage in voter fraud (the Supreme Court ruling acknowledged there’s no evidence of it in the Indiana case). Democrats will say Republicans are just trying to limit voting to whites and affluent people.

I have a request in to Minnesota’s Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, to talk about the issue in Minnesota. Stay tuned. (Update: Ritchie talked to MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki awhile ago saying he hadn’t read the decision and it doesn’t affect Minn., which kind of misses the point of kicking the issue around a bit more.)

voter_registration_card.jpg

  • Mark Gisleson

    But had you paid cash, no ID would have been required. Not exactly apples and oranges — more like apples and highway cones.

    Picture IDs are burdensome to non-drivers. Period. If you want a national I.D. card with a picture on it, just say so. Otherwise, non-picture I.D. should be more than sufficient to let someone vote, and absent ANY KIND OF PROOF THAT PEOPLE ARE ILLEGALLY VOTING, this entire issue is just silly.

    If you have proof that undocumented workers are illegally voting in Minnesota, present it. If you have none, then what’s the problem?

    The numbers of people affected by this are small, but reliably Democrat leaning. This is an effort disenfranchise a small group of voters by cynical GOP schemers, nothing more.

  • This is an effort disenfranchise a small group of voters

    Or it could be an attempt to restore trust in the entire system that our representative democracy is built on. Once faith in the democratic system of voting is lost, the whole thing comes crashing down. You get accusations of elections being stolen that become justifications for all sorts of obstructionism and malfeasance.

    When the belief that “it doesn’t matter if I vote because the whole thing is corrupt and rigged” becomes the norm, there is no way a democracy can survive. Cynicism and apathy set in, and the results are not pretty.

    Picture IDs are burdensome to non-drivers.

    So is going to pick entitlement checks, but they seem to find a way. So is paying tax every year, but every year I sit down and do it.

    Are we so far down the path of entitlement that people can’t even be “burdened” to vote?

  • Dan

    I don’t see why this is such a big deal. How can one prove who they are without a government issued identification? A picture ID is necessary to go through airport security, buy alcohol, or something as simple as cashing a check. Why should voting be any different? This is an issue of proof, not shutting out poor voters.

  • GregS

    No evidence of systematic voter fraud? Who are we kidding here?

    The organization ACORN has been doing this for years – and has been indicted for it in several states, most notably Missouri and West Virgina.

    A president was elected in 1960 by sole virtue of voter fraud in Chicago. There the cemetaries have been voting for years.

  • Bob Collins

    You can, actually, get through an airport security line without a photo ID. Vermont, for example, doesn’t put photos on their driver’s licenses.

    But the comments do mirror the debate…it’s about poor people being allowed to vote vs. maintaining the integrity of the system. That’s the public debate.

    But the politicization of the debate seems rooted in the theory that having more poor people vote benefits Democrats; having fewer of them vote benefits Republicans.

  • Dan

    That’s very interesting, Bob. I was not aware of Vermont’s practices. How can someone prove who they are without identification card containing a picture however? That seems to defeat the purpose of having an ID card.

    Unfortunately the root issue becomes blurred with political polarization (as usual). The concern should be over voter fraud and how to properly validate eligible voters.

  • GregS

    I cannot understand the logic behind not requiring people to have Real ID.

    If the lack of Real ID is a barrier to poor people voting, would not the same theory apply to lack of Real ID being a barier to employment?

    I would think that people who are really concerned about the poor would be working hard to ensure that each and every citizen has proper ID.

    Why isn’t ACORN strivinng to get the proper documentation into the hands of poor voters?

    Could it be that fraud, not compassion, is their agenda?

  • bsimon

    Dan writes

    “The concern should be over voter fraud and how to properly validate eligible voters.”

    Exactly. The first question should be: how large a problem is this? The second, how much (if any) money should be spent to solve the problem?

  • Bob Collins

    My voting plan would solve all of these problems: Vote an ATM. OK, so there are a few kinks to work out.

  • Elizabeth T.

    (in Michigan) – I got divorced, and changed my name back to my ‘maiden’ name. The next time I went to vote, I asked at my polling place if I was still listed under my old name. I was. I also had my old passport, which I hadn’t gotten around to changing. I quite seriously could have voted twice – just show up early in the morning and late in the evening. (It was ’00, perhaps I should have). I told them this, they made some note. For the next two rounds of elections (state & local ones), my old name was still there.

    It would not be too difficult to get two IDs. Get married, get divorced (this is presented as an opportunistic situation, *not* as a recommendation) – the US Secretary of State requires a birth certificate and the marriage license if you’ve changed it. They don’t ask if there are divorce papers around, or if you name has changed since then. If I scavenged up my old social security card and marriage license, I could probably get another passport and voter ID. And vote twice.

    The issue of religious restrictions is interesting though. I had to appeal to the U. for an exception to something medical, and it got processed as ‘religious objection’, despite the fact that the rest of the documentation clearly indicated I had none.

  • Mark Gisleson

    This sort of stuff gets very tiresome very quickly, but the Acorn examples being cited are not of fraudulent voting, but of fraudulent registration. Workers paid to get registrations were defrauding Acorn by making up phony voter registration cards. The names and addresses were bogus, and no false votes would have come of any of it.

    It’s a very minor issue affecting very few people, but it’s being pushed for perceived political advantage. It should be pointed out that while this kind of Republican voter suppression strategy goes back to Goldwater, it’s a deeply Democratic strategy with its roots in the suppression of the African American vote. And the Democrats who practiced this suppression have all become Southern Republicans.

    Again, let’s see some examples of actual voter fraud. Even the Supreme Court acknowledged that it was rare, and the majority had to rely on historical examples (mostly over a hundred years old) to justify their vote.

    Vote fraud occurs in the counting, not the casting of ballots.

  • GregS

    This sort of stuff gets very tiresome very quickly, but the Acorn examples being cited are not of fraudulent voting, but of fraudulent registration. Workers paid to get registrations were defrauding Acorn by making up phony voter registration cards. The names and addresses were bogus, and no false votes would have come of any of it.

    To cast a false vote, you need a false registration.

    How else can graveyards vote in Chicago?