Issues alone do not determine election results; the makeup of the electorate is the most important factor. This is why getting out the vote is so important to any political campaign; voter persuasion is great, but supporter mobilization is more important. Unfortunately, this emphasis on turnout also leads to the temptation of voter suppression: tactics designed to discourage or disenfranchise potential voters for the opposing side. This year, a vast wave of voter suppression techniques have been unleashed on the American public — the new and most pervasive of which are the voter ID laws introduced for consideration in 35 states in 2011. They may seem like common sense at first glance, but they’re not; they’re completely unnecessary and undeniably discriminatory.
Voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and even when it does happen, it’s not at the polls through voter impersonation; it happens through misinformation about polling locations, voter roll purges or even ballot stuffing and electronic voting system manipulation. The rare cases where ineligible voters attempt to register or cast ballots are more often honest mistakes than not: a parent attempting to vote for a student away at college, or a foreign national in Wichita who, in 2009, filled out a voter registration form after being offered one at the DMV without knowing she was ineligible. Voter registration of nonexistent or ineligible persons is virtually impossible, given that social security numbers are run for all registrants. Voter impersonation would require extremely large, disciplined teams of volunteers ready to commit felonies. The Brennan Center for Justice finds: “Nationwide, since October 2002, 86 individuals have been convicted of federal crimes relating to election fraud (including several offenses not remedied by ID requirements), while 196,139,871 ballots have been cast in federal general elections. Statistically, Americans are more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning.”
While I do not doubt the earnest intentions of many supporters of ID laws, the legislators and officials who introduce them are doing so to suppress votes — not to protect against the imaginary threat of election fraud. At least 10 percent of Americans lack the government ID required by the laws. Some are just young and haven’t gotten one since turning 18. Others are elderly and don’t need one. Still others find the cost prohibitive. If you have a debit card and you don’t drive, drink or smoke, it’s not difficult to see why you might pass on getting one. The fees to obtain an ID can range from $20 to $100, and the costs of obtaining the required paperwork (birth certificates, passports or naturalization papers) can be even more. African Americans have driver’s licenses at half the rate of whites, with the percentage decreasing further at younger ages.
The year 2008 was the result of an expanded electorate; 2010 was the result of a shrunken electorate. Given that young people, poor people and minorities traditionally vote Democrat, it should come as no surprise that all of the voter ID laws currently being considered are being promoted by Republicans.
Daily Nexus liberal columnist Geoffrey Bell calls shenanigans on the new voter ID laws.
In Response, Right Said:
Well, I’m glad to see that my counterpart’s skill at blindly slandering an entire group of people hasn’t diminished.
First and foremost, let me make this point abundantly clear on behalf of everyone who supports voter ID laws: We are not in favor of voter ID laws because we want to disenfranchise people. That is not our purpose, and to suggest otherwise is to completely mischaracterize the intentions of millions of people — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. I should hope that liberals remember that it is the Democratic Party that is rightly remembered as having engineered massive “machines” that committed widespread voting fraud and crushed the true will of the people a number of times.
It is certainly no surprise that my opponent would play the race card, but even on that he is wrong. Several polls taken in battleground states like Florida, Colorado and New Mexico surveying the Hispanic population indicate that Hispanics are overwhelmingly in favor of voter ID laws. Furthermore, most of the states with voter ID laws have experienced higher voter turnout since they passed such laws, not lower.
The sooner liberals drop their uncivil rhetoric in favor of the truth, the sooner commonsense anti-voter fraud measures may be put in place.