Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Voter Fraud and Photo IDs

I just saw this post over at SC&A linking to a story about voter fraud in Milwaukee, WI. Voting fraud is a serious issue and needs to be addressed. Some of the allegations were of people voting twice and/or using false names. The proposed solution to this problem is requiring a government issued photo ID at the polling place. This sounds like a simple solution, and one that I am not opposed to per se. But there is one problem. Not everyone has a drivers license. I know that may sound absurd to many of you, but in places like New York City, there is no need for one. I have a car sitting up in Connecticut that I haven't driven in months.

So, you may say, "well, that is a small percentage of the population." There are 2 million people on the island of Manhattan alone. Then you have the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and some may even include Staten Island as a borough (although that is very disputable). This number is only a small percentage of the number of Americans who do not drive and do not have drivers licenses.

So, you may say, "well then they can get a state ID." True, they can. But they are not free. It varies by state ($10-$45), but lets say $25. While $25 to pick up a State ID card may seem trivial to most of us, ask someone making minimum wage if $25 is trivial to them.

My point is this. I have no problem requiring a photo ID card when voting as long as getting a state ID card is free. Otherwise, it is basically a poll tax which is unconstitutional. If it comes to be that the federal government passes legislation that mandates states to check IDs, the federal government should also ensure that barriers to getting an ID are approaching zero.


Boomr said...

I agree ID should be required. I disagree that it should be free. IDs are needed for tons of things that are "personal rights" like voting: drinking, driving, renting a car or hotel, getting on an airplane, buying cigarettes, gambling, getting into R rated movies, etc. IDs are needed by most employers before you're hired. The government charges for providing passports.

There's no outcry that these requirements for IDs amount to tax burdens on the poor -- I don't see why it should apply to voting. Besides, the people would end up paying for the IDs anyway through tax allocations by other means. This way, at least, only the people who vote (or drive, or drink, etc.) need to choose to get an ID, rather than having the government just issue them to EVERYONE whether they intend to use it or not.

I have no problem with paying for an ID, and I'm not exactly rolling in the $$. Plus, it's not like it's $25 EVERY TIME YOU VOTE, but only $25 every three or four years when you renew your ID. Unlimited votes for that one price -- definitely not a poll tax.

Besides, aren't IDs ALREADY required at the polls? I'm pretty sure they are. I know they are in Louisiana, and we're not exactly the most progressive state in terms of advanced voting procedures....

Dingo said...

"Besides, aren't IDs ALREADY required at the polls?"

there are only 7 states that require photo IDs

South Carolina
South Dakota

Many states accept utility bills and Hunting or fishing license as acceptable IDs.

"There's no outcry that these requirements for IDs amount to tax burdens on the poor"

There is no constitutional right to drive, open a bank account, rent a car.

There is a constitutional right to vote (and for your Bush v Gore buffs, I am talking about AFTER the state has granted it).

"I have no problem with paying for an ID, and I'm not exactly rolling in the $$. Plus, it's not like it's $25 EVERY TIME YOU VOTE, but only $25 every three or four years when you renew your ID."

Ummmm, don't presidential elections only happen once every 4 years?

Boomr said...

Yes, but congressional races happen every two years, local and state elections are usually staggered with respect to the national elections (I know Louisiana's governor race is in an odd year), special elections arise every so often, etc. You could end up voting 7 or 8 times between ID renewals.

There's a constitutional right to travel, but IDs are needed to drive, ride on an airplane or train or bus, etc. Besides, the constitutional right to vote is limited (by age, felony conviction status, citizenship, mental status), so it's not like anyone random could walk in off the street and cast a ballot. I don't see why there's a constitutional right to vote WITHOUT ID. To assert constitutional rights, you still need to prove who you are.

Dingo said...

So, how did voters prove who they were in 1805? Yes, Washington could just flip the poll worker a dollar bill and Jefferson could show him a nickel, but, what about the Reveres, the Patersons, the Arnolds... oh, wait, forget the Arnolds.

MaxedOutMama said...

I prefer that ID's be free. I understand Boomr's position, but nowdays ID's are also required to get a bank account etc.

I got into a whooping argument with some big leaguers in banking about a similar question. Banks aren't required to open accounts for people (they are private institutions) and they want and need to limit their regulatory risks especially under BSA. They were required by the Patriot Act and legislation to write policies for how they would check their customer's IDs and stick to those policies.

The result was that most compliance officers wrote policies that were in effect discriminatory toward large classes of people. Because something may be legal doesn't make it right, and legal protections aren't abstract - they are interpreted in view of facts.

If ID such as birth certificates, etc will be accepted that is one thing. But if a photo ID from government is required plus proof of citizenship then the government needs to make sure it does not discriminate against the poor, the old and the disabled. The amount of the fee and whether it may be waived, the accessibility of such offices, etc might become a genuine barrier to the right to vote.

I think the details of such laws are significant and if not carefully crafted, may provide grounds for equal protection/due process challenges.

If government has a pressing interest in requiring valid government-issued ID to vote then it also has a pressing interest in making sure that every person, even if disabled or poor, has an equal access to such an ID.

MaxedOutMama said...

By the way, Dingo, I read that the Dems in Indiana are suing against that photo ID law. But the ID's are free and the requirement itself is supposed to be waived for those with limited mobility (nursing homes, etc). I am trying to find out more details of that lawsuit.

There may be a suit in GA as well, even though my understanding is that ours is supposed to be free.

Dingo said...

if you get more info MOM, please pass it along. I would like to know the rationale