It may come as a surprise to some of you who know me to hear that I am in favor of Voter ID. I think that having a standardized method of identifying valid voters, and limiting those voters to a single vote, is a great idea. I don’t think we have much of an in-person voter fraud problem in the United States, but I’m a big believer in being better safe than sorry.
However, my objection to the current spate of Voter ID laws is that, from my perspective, they have been designed for no purpose other than to disenfranchise Democratic voters in Republican-controlled states during the upcoming 2012 elections. You can quibble with this if you like, but given that there is not an in-person, voter identity fraud problem in this country, these laws are not designed to fix something that’s broken. As they stand today, they are designed solely to limit the ability to vote for those who do not currently have a proper photo ID and who would have difficulty in getting one in time to vote, which are primarily poor/Democratic voters.
I currently live a lifestyle such that having a valid, acceptable form of photo identification is not something I ever have to think about. I have a drivers license and a passport, and although they aren’t always 100% current (because I’m lazy and/or forgetful), I can easily afford the time and costs involved to keep them up to date, and have easy access to all necessary supporting documentation.
However, that has not always been the case for me, and isn’t the case for many, many Americans. These Americans still have a right to vote, however, even if they have not navigated the myriad processes necessary to obtain an acceptable photo ID and to keep it current. Again, for those of us of a certain means, it may sound ludicrous to state that having a valid photo ID is a burden, but it is for a large number of people.
As an indicator, current estimates indicate that 6% of Americans don’t have broadband internet access today. To those of us who are ‘connected’, it’s difficult to conceive of someone living a disconnected lifestyle. Some of the disconnected simply choose not to connect even though they have the means, but many of them do not have the wherewithal or circumstance that allows for digital connectivity.
Now picture a disconnected person trying to get a photo ID. How do they even learn the process? Go down to the DMV? What if they don’t drive and there isn’t mass transportation where they live? What if they work a job where getting away during municipal office hours is difficult or impossible? What if they don’t have a copy of their birth certificate? What if the cost of getting their birth certificate and/or photo ID comes down to a choice between feeding their children or getting an ID?
Consider not only the costs for documents,