Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why Voter I.D. Will Backfire

I'll hand it to the conservative strategists at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, they come up with some clever tactics. The latest one is the enacting of voter I.D. laws. Ostensibly, this is done to combat voter fraud. But they made the mistake of highlighting the demographics this would affect the most - namely poor, elderly, young and minority voters - and the cat was let out of the bag. There is a not-so-subtle attempt at nudging the elections over in their favor.  It is gerrymandering on a grand scale.

Now, I'm not going to take the ridiculous position that some on the left have taken and say that there's almost no fraud. Sure, only a dozen or so confirmed cases of fraud have been documented in the recent decade, but voter fraud is something like seeing a cockroach in your kitchen. Sure, it's only one bug, but if you see one, there's likely an entire population living beneath the floorboards or inside the walls somewhere. So I say, yes, there's some fraud, and more than we like to admit. But is voter I.D. the way to solve it?

As any 19-year-old girl who has brought a fake photo I.D. to a club knows, the answer is... hell, no! Photo I.D. can be fooled just as easily as anything, and the elderly volunteers who work at the polls are not as adept at spotting a fake I.D. as, say, a police officer or even a bartender. Requiring a photo I.D. will not stop fraud so much as it will make it much harder to detect, because in those cases where voter fraud has taken place on any significant scale, the defense will always be, "There's no fraud here. Everybody showed their I.D.!" Well, fine, until you realize that a well-financed fake I.D. ring might have been at work.

Guess which party has more financial muscle to force a large-scale phony ident. scheme under the radar?

It used to be that the poor guy on skid row, who had no clean shirt, no socks, and no money even for coffee, could at least console himself with the paltry knowledge that he had one, measly vote to change it, and that the wealthiest asshole was only as wealthy has him in that regard. Now he can't have even that.

To prevent fraud, one needs a means of trying to prevent duplicate or bogus entries. But that's what voter registration is for. You have a person who provides their personal information, address, some sort of verification, etc., assign it a number, and there you go. We already have that. A photo I.D. just makes the process more expensive for the potential voter, thus amounting to a poll tax. In the 21st Century, no less! You'd think we'd grown beyond that. To prevent this, the government must be required to pay for the I.D. So far, I haven't heard one, single Republican politician ask for that. We want smaller government, after all.

(Special note: In Wisconsin, if you are turning 18 before the November elections, you CAN get a free I.D.! Just check the "Free ID" box when filling out your application!)

I don't think all this is being done to unhorse Obama. I can clearly recall (as I'm sure you also can) about how then-Wisconsin-Governor Jim Doyle stood opposed to voter I.D. laws being enacted prior to the 2008 presidential election. The I.D. anti-fraud angle was probably cooked up to oppose Democrats in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular. It was only after the Obama campaign overwhelmed everyone that Republicans, not fully realizing how much they were truly latent xenophobic racists underneath it all (they probably still aren't consciously aware of it!) began getting really adamant about pushing voter I.D. laws through. Apparently, not only have we not grown past poll taxes, we haven't grown past lynchings, either.

That having been said, I'll admit that we're on the cusp of the era where everyone will have some sort of I.D. to vote anyway. We already need an I.D. to buy alcohol, an I.D. to buy cigarettes, an I.D. to enter a club, an I.D. to collect a welfare check, an I.D. for, well, anything. Are the numbers of poor and minority voters without photo I.D. really as high as projections have stated? I'm not so sure.

Well, be that as it may, it is as certain as death and taxes that the whole thing will backfire. Why? Because the surest way to get people to go do something is to attempt to prevent them from doing it. Want to get young people and minorities to get out and vote? Then try to block them from voting! They'll get pissed, and they'll go vote in droves! Already, minority civic leaders and left-leaning political pundits are blowing the whistle, months in advance, preparing to make certain that as many people have photo I.D.s as possible. You will see concerted efforts at voter identification. Entire armies of volunteers will make certain of it.

Also, young people are often jaded about voting, but voter I.D. assuages their fears about having their voices heard. Take Indiana, for example. Indiana was one state which enacted a strong voter I.D. law between 2004 and 2008. Did it prevent young people from voting? No! According to a Pew Research poll, the percentage of young people as an overall share of the vote went up by 5% between 2004 and 2008! Young people in that state felt better about their vote not being negated by any shenanagans, and voted with more confidence.

This will replay itself in 2012 on a much larger scale. Instead of hurting the Democratic vote, it will favor it. Perhaps it will even hurt the Republican vote as the elderly are often more conservative.

Full disclosure: There is one piece of contrary evidence to this theory. A weak voter I.D. law was passed in Ohio in 2006, and the youth vote in that state went down by 4% as a total of the overall vote between '04 and '08. My hypothesis regarding this is that young people burn out more easily when it comes to politics, and no state has more scorched-earth scarring when it comes to political ads than Ohio. I don't blame young people in that state for being turned off. Still, I could be wrong.

What I'm not wrong about is the backlash. There will be efforts to make sure I.D.s don't block the vote, and here now is my BRILLIANT suggestion for making sure voting takes place fairly: SPONSOR AN I.D.! It's a great idea! If you're reading this, you probably have the means to assist someone with getting their I.D. in time for the November elections. You probably can help financially, you likely have a vehicle to make getting to & from needed places to pick up verifying documents easy, and you have the willingness to help. I'll bet someone out there could set up an Internet-based network to link people who need an I.D. with people who are willing to help them get it. Become an I.D. sponsor! It only costs $30 at the most ($28 in Wisconsin, and remember, it's free for first-time applicants), and that beats giving a useless $30 donation to a political campaign already overwhelmed by billion-dollar donors!

As I stated earlier, one needs a photo I.D. for anything these days. I'm fairly certain that more potentially Democratic-party votes have I.D. cards that we give them credit for. But one doesn't need an I.D. to buy a gun these days, thanks to conservatives siding so strongly with the NRA. That means all those who were blocked from voting at the polls will be able to buy a firearm and vent their frustrations on the republican legislators who put voter I.D. laws in place. If they can't vote with a ballot, they might vote with a bullet. (I'm not condoning that behavior, by the way. I'm not Ted Nugent! But the potential for such action will be there.)

I imagine voter I.D. could eventually help the Republicans. In 2016, the tumult over voter I.D. will have died down, and voters might be discouraged from voting. But by then, I predict, Hillary Clinton will cruise to an easy victory. Perhaps the midterm elections in 2018 would allow voter I.D. to impact the outcome, but by then, we all hope, the tenure of Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court will be an unhappy memory.

And a new form of electronic I.D. will have made the whole thing irrelevant, anyway.

Eric

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