10 Aug 2012

Voter IDs are a Bad Idea

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As the presidential election approaches, legislation in several states has made the nightmare of required voter identification cards a reality. In an alleged effort to cut down on voter fraud, the controversial initiatives are being passed and enforced even as they are being challenged as violations of civil liberties in court. Not only are the cards themselves controversial, but there is much room to doubt that they are actually needed for the expressed purpose of reducing fraudulent voting – critics say that they are more likely a way to reduce the number of voters, and coincidentally, many of those being left out by the process are likely to be Democrats. Any way you look at the voter ID, it seems to be a bad idea for America and her citizens.

Every American citizen of voting age has the right to cast a vote. In the past, any registered voter could show up at the polling place and do his or her civic duty with a standard form of identification, such as a driver’s license or a state identification for non-drivers. Because of the perceived problem of rampant fraud – even though almost all of the documented voting fraud has been with absentee ballots – and just because we live in a world that seems to want to strangle everything in red tape, that’s not enough anymore.

Now a person has to have an official birth certificate (which many people don’t have and many never have had), proof of their social security number, and another photo ID to get the voter card. But wait, there’s more. Once the correct documents are obtained, an ordeal for people who live long distances from county seats and Social Security office, they have to show up at a designated voter ID office to obtain the card. Looking only at the cost in fuel to finish the race for the card, it can be amazingly expensive. If you count time and lost wages from missed work, it’s an unbearable and unfair burden for ordinary folks.

The real issue is that it’s not just ordinary folks who need a card to vote – it’s the poor, the Hispanic, the black, the elderly, the disenfranchised citizens of all kinds who inhabit the lower levels of the socioeconomic ladder that will be affected. And of course, the laws unfairly target women who often have problems with documents due to name changes from marriage, groups like the Amish who do not allow photographs of themselves, and many other perfectly solid groups of citizens. And what will they do? They will simply choose not to exercise their civil right and civic duty to cast a ballot.

The timing in this whole matter is also very suspicious, since potential voters are being called upon to overcome all of the various difficulties that stand in the way of getting a voter ID card before Election Day. That’s only months away, and yet everyone is expected to chase down the papers and the offices they need to do something that should be as easy as cashing a check. Voter identification cards are not a good idea, because they are an unnecessary barrier between the voter and the ballot, and an illegal burden on a vast number of perfectly capable and law-abiding Americans. Let’s hope the legal challenges to these laws are successful, and the election can go on without them.

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