Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Dope on Voter Identification

On the face of the issue, there is nothing wrong with and adult and having an ID to vote. After all, what kind of responsible person walks around without a form of identification? However, as more recent times have revealed, laws in America are political…not legal. And based on this reality—especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to weaken a major provision of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act—it’s hard not to at least view the issue of requiring voter identification to vote with some bit of skepticism.
What makes this issue so contentious is that who support the various initiatives in various states to require identification vote have just enough reason and logic on their side to give their view some credibility. Even I believe its sound reasoning for someone to have an ID to vote. However, when you look at the issue more closely, it’s hard not to question the overall motive—if not the timing—of these initiatives. These new voter requirements have been proposed, passed, and now validated in approximately 15 different states, most initiated by Republican officials. Most proponents argue that the new laws “help prevent voter fraud.” But given that voter fraud, outside of 1 or 2 anecdotal cases, is not an overt or major factor in either statewide or national elections in this country. These proponents will point questionable actions by left-leaning organizations like the now-defunct ACORN to support their assertions. However, a Justice Department of the period of time between 2002 and 2007 showed that out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and of those few cases, most involved persons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility (See: “The GOP War on Voting”). The takeaway is that voter fraud is such a statistically low occurrence, low impact happenstance in elections in America it the notion of requiring IDs to counter it amounts to a solution looking for a problem. So how is it that so many states are passing voter ID laws when actual cases of voter fraud amount to a political paranoia rather than an actual criminal threat (See: “The Truth About Voter Fraud”)? That is where the question of timing for these voter ID new requirements come in.

Given the unexpected defeat that Republicans received in last year’s presidential elections, many within the party began to see that the major reason for the defeat was the reality of shifting ethnic demographics in America favoring Democrats. All major minority groups overwhelmingly supported President Obama in last year’s elections. Republicans, despite their best efforts at appealing to racial minority groups, became aware of this. And given the party’s intransigence with regard to many of its social policies (policies that many minorities do not outwardly support), this shift has been seen as potentially problematic for Republicans in future elections.
While I am not explicitly stating that the sole reason for these laws is to counter demographic shifts and changing views on social issues (like gay marriage), the timing is questionable. It would have made more sense to institute voter ID laws in the immediate aftermath of the 2000 election—the most contentious and closest presidential election in the nation’s history… but these laws weren’t. Most were proposed being instituted in the wake of the election nation's first black president, and reality of solid ethnic minority backing. Sounds kind of questionable when you think about it. And being a policy with political implications, it’s a sure bet that many who have proposed these new laws are not oblivious to these realities.

Last year’s controversial press conference by the Republican Leader of the Pennsylvania state House of Representatives, Mike Turzai goes a long way to supporting that it’s at least known who would benefit and who would not from instituting these new laws (see video below).
Whether you support voter ID or not, it’s one of those issues that supporters don’t bother to scrutinize enough to consider its political rationale or motives. It’s one of those things that—although it sounds good on the surface—needs to be examined beyond openly supporting or condemning. However, the reality one is left forced to accept, given reason rather than passion, is that voter identification laws are a backdoor attempt to suppress the vote of entire voting blocks.


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