Thursday, September 21, 2006

What am I missing?

As most of you know, I am big on ballot security and voting issues. I have proudly given testimony in support of expanding the reach of the Motor-Voter Law while before the City Council (on behalf of my former employer the Association of the Bar of the City of New York) and as a member of the Social Welfare Committee (for those that don't know, the Motor-Voter Law allows people to register to vote at the DMV). While I recognize studies that show making it easier for people to register does not necessarily translate into more people voting, I consider that if we make it easy for people to get in the "game," by definition they have a better chance of playing (they can't vote if they don't register). I have been a strong proponent of spending money to increase voter confidence in elections including, but not limited to improving our voting machines. I have also participated in ballot security measures since 2001, helping to ensure elections are free from fraud, both here in NYC and nationally.

So, with this as background I am shocked (shocked!) to see the Congressional Democrats coming our against a new regulation that would require the presentation of photo ID when voting in national elections.

As described in the Washington Times today, The Federal Election Integrity Act or "Voter ID" Bill, "would require voters in federal elections to provide picture identification by 2008 and provide proof of U.S. citizenship by 2010. It was among the recommendations made last year by the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a Republican."

So, why are Democrats so willing to throw President Carter's recommendations beneath the bus? "Democrats, siding with groups that work on behalf of minorities and illegal aliens, called the bill a 'modern-day poll tax' and said it would place an insurmountable burden on voters and infringe upon their voting rights."

Okay - so illegal aliens, who shouldn't be voting anyway, don't like this. Go figure. So Democrats are essentially saying they rely on this bloc of non-voters to vote - illegally. And I thought the Democrats were supposed to be fighting for fairness and electoral integrity.

Now as to the "poll tax," this argument has more to do with the details than the principle. It is argued that the poor, minorities and the elderly (or very young voters) are less likely to have a valid photo. Putting aside that my grandparents both have valid driver's licenses (although my grandfather hasn't driven in what seems like forever) and that, although I represent many poor minorities they all seem to have licenses of some other photo ID, I will stipulate that in some areas of the country this is not the case. For example, a June 2005 University of Wisconsin study found that less than half of Milwaukee black and Hispanic adults have valid licenses (although no word if any of those folks were illegal aliens).

Nonetheless, voter fraud happens. Indeed, I hope to move to Chicago when I die so I can keep voting. Kidding aside, arguments that equate the use of some form of ID to a poll tax are simply not serious. The real issue is what type of ID can be used or, if an ID is not possessed, how easy and costly it is to get one. A list that includes military ID, passports, driver’s licenses and other government issued ID, as well as a “Voter ID” issued by each state, should be more than able to balance the demands of ballot integrity with intrusion on lives of There is no reason that the Board of Elections for each state cannot issue a "Voter ID" to those without an otherwise valid photo ID for no cost. Thus, unlike the poll-tax (a fee requested at polls that would be used to disenfranchise blacks), the ID would cost the poor nothing, save the time to get it. Considering what it took to win the right to vote, and to maintain that right, is it really too much to ask that citizens go down to the BOE and wait in line for an ID?

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