Another Bad Argument on Voter ID

An election worker checks a voter’s drivers license as North Carolina’s “Voter ID” law goes into effect for the state’s presidential primary election at a polling place in Charlotte, N.C., March 15, 2016. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

Steven Taylor at Outside the Beltway takes issue with my contention that it is inconsistent for the District of Columbia to demand identification for purposes of keeping non-residents from obtaining vaccines, and for this to be reported as an unremarkable step, when D.C. Democrats and the media are the sort of people who react with paroxysms of rage and horror if anyone seeks to use identification or voter-registration lists to keep non-residents from voting. First, Taylor complains that “it is untrue that Democrats are ‘trying to abolish state voter-identification.’ Instead, HR1 would provide an alternative for those who lack ID at the polling place.” Of course, H.R. 1 would indeed abolish a great many states’ identification laws for in-person voting, and eliminate identification requirements, notarization, and witnesses for absentee ballots. His evidence is that H.R. 1 would allow voters to submit a self-sworn statement. I suppose you could call that “identification” in the same way that writing or saying your name is “identification.”

Then he says that “no critic of voter ID rules is advocating for a free-for-all wherein anyone could show up to any polling place and vote willy-nilly. See, again, voter registration and checking the rolls at the polling place.” This ignores the extensive provisions of H.R. 1 that would eviscerate voter registration lists, such as automatic and same-day registration, restrictions on keeping voter rolls current, and even allowing a voter to change their name and address on the list at the polling place.

Taylor says that “the reason that people, such as myself, criticize voter ID rules is not that we are opposed to the notion, on its face, of showing an ID to vote” but that “the chances that lack of specific kinds of ID could hamper a citizen from being able to exercise a fundamental right of citizenship is higher (quite a bit higher, in fact) than the chances of in-person voter fraud taking place (let alone in a way that would affect the outcome).” Of course, the rhetoric surrounding voter-ID requirements is that they ipso facto constitute “voter suppression,” a charge that — if true — would be equally true even if voter fraud was massively epidemic. It is true that few elections will be altered by voter fraud, but it is also true that few if any voters will actually be unable to obtain any valid form of identification, or will be prevented from voting. Both issues are at the margins — and the margins can matter when there are, every year, a few races for a significant office decided by fewer than 100 votes (including this year’s House race for Iowa’s second district, decided by six votes).

Finally, Taylor says that “if we just made IDs easy to obtain, free, and universal, we could stop having this discussion . . . I would challenge any advocate of voter ID laws to join me in that solution.” In fact, many states with voter-ID laws make it easy to obtain an ID — Alabama even has a mobile unit to provide free IDs. Very few conservatives or Republicans would be unwilling to sign on to a deal that requires voter ID in exchange for making a state voter ID easier or free to obtain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *