Peter’s Take: The Dangers of Stricter Virginia ID Laws

by Peter Rousselot February 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm 2,483 110 Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

Remember those long lines many of you experienced in Arlington in last year’s presidential election? The easiest and cheapest solution to lines like those: no-excuse absentee voting for all voters — or even for some categories of voters like those 65 years and older. But, Republicans in the Virginia legislature have blocked every effort to pass such laws.

Instead, Virginia Republican legislators have been trying to make it much harder to vote. Last year, they tried to get a photo ID requirement enacted, but Governor McDonnell (perhaps trying to burnish his VP credentials) stopped that from happening. This year, the Republicans are right back at it.

On February 5, the Virginia House and Senate passed two bills which would make the strict voter ID law enacted just last year even stricter. These bills, introduced by Republican Senator Dick Black and Republican Representative Mark Cole, “would ban voters from presenting a utility bill, pay stub, government or Social Security card as proof of identity — all forms of ID allowed under the current law.”

There is no reason to change the 2012 law so soon after it was enacted. The proposed 2013 legislation would subject Virginia voters to three new voter ID requirements in three years. There is no justification for that many changes over that short of a period of time. The confusion this would create could lead many voters to show up at the polls in 2013 with only forms of ID that were valid last year, but not this year.

Another proposed photo ID bill introduced by Republican Senator Mark Obenshain “imposes burdensome new voter identification requirements, could cost Virginia millions of dollars to implement, and may ensnare Virginia in costly litigation.” At a House of Delegates subcommittee meeting last month, representatives “from the League of Women Voters to the NAACP — opposed the photo ID requirement as costly and unnecessary, saying it would disenfranchise minority, elderly and low-income Virginians.”

Disenfranchising these categories of voters is precisely the goal of photo ID laws — despite vehement denials from the Republicans sponsoring them. They claim it’s to prevent fraud. But documented cases of such fraud are minuscule  while the number of voters likely to be disenfranchised is in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

The costs to democracy and our pocketbooks of these voter ID laws far outweigh the benefits — a point brushed aside by Republicans who otherwise boast about their commitment to sound fiscal policy.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

  • novasteve

    Funny how in liberal states, even ones with gay marriage, you need to show PHOTO ID to get marriage, what htey claim is a constitutional right as well. So only whites should be able to get married? Your argument is that photo ID rules to vote are racist, but you need photo ID to get married. Racist?


    “Only one of the parties needs to appear to apply for the marriage license, however, you must bring ID for both parties and have all of the information listed below.

    Both parties must be over 18 years of age. Forms of identification for each person: driver’s license, birth certificate or a passport (Applicants 17 and younger are required to call the License Department prior to applying.) “

  • The Teacher

    Ok, I’ll say it: I don’t think dumb people should vote. We should have a dumb ID requirement.

    • xarl

      when i first registered to vote in 1960 there was a literacy test requirement (in new york stste) i believe this was no longer the case by 1965.

      • R. Griffon

        Or better yet, how about a basic civics test in order to vote?

        • Jonathan B

          I suspect a lot of people would be surprised when they failed that test. Especially the ones who thought it was a good idea.

      • drax

        Jeez, xarl, you walked right into that one.

        Literacy tests and similar tests were banned because they were widely used in states like Virginia to exclude blacks from voting.

        • snarl

          i was just t oo lazy to look up the date. btw, they were used in n y from the 20’s to keep immigrants from voting, as many were coming in at that time. prejudice comes in many shapes and colors..

    • Not Me

      I’m curious which party would be most affected. It might be a wash.

    • Poll Worker

      As a poll worker, I would at least require the person voting know the name of the person for whom they are going to vote. Is that too much? Civics test would be even better, and I don’t really care which party would be most affected. Kennedy’s words are certainly hollow now.

    • Framers of Constitution

      I think only white males who own property should be allowed to vote. I’m a strict constitutionalist and I think all these stupid amendements have ruined our country. The only reason things are in such a bad state is we allow all these women and minorities who don’t even have to own any property to vote.

  • SouthPikeGuy

    Why do people who want to vote for Democrats have so much trouble obtaining photo ID’s? Republican voters apparently do not have this same problem.

    • Thought

      Why are republicans trying to change the rules to prevent those said voters from voting?

      • wuh

        Fraud control.

    • b0rk

      Because they’re the least likely to have their lives together, unfortunately. They’re the ones (without IDs) that want everything to be handed to them on a silver platter, and not have to work for it.

  • Disenfranchised?

    I agree it’s an added burden and may slow the process even more, but how exactly does it disenfranchise minorities or low income residents? It seems like any ID requirement would pretty evenly affect everyone. I could see the elderly being impacted, but not the other groups.

    • Hee-Haw

      right, if you are a legal citizen, why is it so hard to get a picture ID ?

    • Ryan

      Because the vast majority of non-poor people have a drivers license. Also, less directly, places with long waits are disproportionately in Democratic leaning areas, so those areas would suffer the most from slowing down the process.

      • Poll Worker

        I don’t think there’s ANY data to back that up in Arlington.

        • Ryan

          Which part? I don’t know about data on drivers licenses, but my experience riding buses in Arlington is that there are far more minorities on average than in the general population.

          As far as the long waits, all of Arlington is a Democratic leaning area, and Arlington had much longer lines than say Lee County. Democrats tend to live in more urban areas with higher population density which leads to longer lines.

          • Libby

            So what’s your point…that the commonwealth should ignore the potential for voter fraud in order to get people through the lines more quickly?

          • drax


            Is there even any real voter fraud happening?

          • novasteve

            Drax, is there any deliberate discrimination that you can point to that’s causing women to be paid 82 cents for every dollar men make? No, yet that doesn’t stop democrats from perpetrating that fraud too.

          • speonjosh

            What potential? What makes today any different than the past? Why now? Besides fear mongering and a realization on the part of Republicans that demographics do not favor them, what evidence is there that voter fraud is a problem anywhere?

    • tce

      The disenfranchisement comes from requiring someone to ‘pay’ for a voter ID… and a drivers license has a cost to it… the courts ruled that that would amount to a poll tax which is not allowed. If the state wanted to give out free photo ID’s there’d be no issue for either side to complain about.

      • Sandy

        I thought one of the features of the Senate version was free photo ID’s for registered voters.

        • tce

          I haven’t seen anything out of congress… the Fed Court ruled against Texas last year on it’s attempt to require a photo id on the grounds that it was an undue burdon on minorities because of the cost. If Texas had just used some of it’s oil money to give out free ID’s to all its citizens there wouldn’t have been an issue… 🙂

          • Sandy

            I meant the Virginia Senate.

    • Clarendon

      Anything that slows voting will tend to impact certain types of wage earners more than others. Those that have to clock in or have jobs without flex time will have to take vacation or get pay docked to vote.

      • Libby

        Yes…it takes much more time to show the poll workers a valid photo ID than it does to show them a utility bill.

    • Banksy

      Really? Then you must not know many people who are in low-paying or hourly-wage jobs, who don’t get vacation time, who work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet, or who don’t have a car. It’s really not that difficult to see how this is a Republican strategy to depress a mostly Democratic-leaning vote.

      Not to mention the fact that this so-called “voter fraud” which the I.D. is supposed to address is a ginned-up problem to begin with.

      • Disenfranchised?

        “hen you must not know many people who are in low-paying or hourly-wage jobs, who don’t get vacation time, who work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet, or who don’t have a car.”

        Everything you just said refers to residents who do not have the ability to vote due to their job requirements. A voter ID law would not change anything about the situation mentioned above.

      • Jeff

        Actually, the majority of low income voters are independent (51%) according to a Sept 2012 study by Pew Research Center.

  • m

    “But documented cases of such fraud are minuscule while the number of voters likely to be disenfranchised is in the tens or hundreds of thousands.”
    Or, to put it differently, there are some documented cases of fraud, and possibly some instances where it happened but wasn’t detected. On the other hand, there are NO “documented” cases (which seems to be Peter’s standard) of disenfranchisement, leading Peter to speculate, with no discernible basis, that it is “likely” to be in the tens or hundreds of thousands.
    Poor people don’t all have drivers licenses, but they have ID cards of some sort – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to get food stamps, health care, and other benefits.
    Democrats are afraid of voter ID laws not because Democratic-leaning voters don’t have ID cards, but because Democrats rely on support from low-interest, low-information voters who aren’t committed to getting to the polls, who decide to vote on the spur of the moment, and who might not bother if they have to remember to bring their ID card.

    • nopq

      how could there be any “documented cases” when the requirement has not been implemented M? how’s that supposed to work?

    • KathyInArlingtonVA

      There are plenty of Republican low-information voters. Otherwise, how could the Republican party get its voters of modest means to vote against their own self-interests?

      • novasteve

        Because they have self respect and pride. Not everyone wants to be taken care of by the state, some people believe in personal responsibility and want to be treated like adults, not like a child by the state.

        • Jason

          I am so very happy to see someone make this point. There’s nothing more insulting than the left’s assumption that everyone who might be eligible for some government handout would PREFER that handout over a government that takes less and interferes less in the first place. Thank you.

          • Not Me

            Why then are states that receive the most Federal aid predominantly red?

          • novasteve

            There are blue encaves in “red” states that are the poorest of the poor.

          • drax

            Yet you have no problem with the insulting assumption that people on “the left” assume this in the first place.

    • speonjosh

      Gosh, for someone who likes to accuse others of making up unsubstantiated arguments, you sure made a doozy of one there.

  • Hee-Haw

    Seriously, this is not a big deal. We already have to show ID for basic things, so why not voting too ? I could care less how the political parties spin this…its simply common sense we should have a photo ID to vote. If it helps, maybe a simple photo ID should cost less than a driver’s license.

  • n00bbanker

    I also have a hard time understanding this disenfranchisement. It costs $10 to get a basic ID card in Virginia. It still boggles my mind how anyone could potentially walk around without a government issued photo ID.

    I’m genuinely interested to know: do those receiving state, federal benefits need a form of ID? IDs are required for cashing checks and buying booze, so I have a hard time seeing how it’s a burden.

    I guess I’m just an out of touch, upper middle class, white person.

    • Scott

      at least you recognize that you are just an out of touch, upper middle class, white person…

    • Arlington Cat

      “I guess I’m just an out of touch, upper middle class, white person.”

      I would agree, and add “who doesn’t understand what is in the Constitution.”

      • novasteve

        How so cat? What doesn’t he understand in the constitution? There are plenty of explicit constitutional rights, and plenty of court created ones, which require photo ID. Yet why is voting different? I need to show photo ID to purchase a gu n despite the second amendment and no ID requirement is in the constitution.

        • birdman

          You need ID to prove your memebership of a well regulated militia

          • novasteve

            2nd amendment is an individual right, so you can forget about your militia argument.

          • Jeff

            I provided my drivers license and several other forms of ID to purchase my guns legally, but none of them had any indication of whether or not I belong to any militia.

    • KathyInArlingtonVA

      n00bbanker: I agree with the last paragraph of your comment. How many years has it been since you have had to show an ID when buying your booze? One of the freedoms we in America value is the fact that we aren’t required to carry a government issued ID card, unlike countries that are governed by harsh regimes.

      • novasteve

        I think certain areas require you to carry ID in the US. If you were to get stopped by police without an ID, you’ll get detained. So you might as well have one. Also if you fly out of dulles, you could be 100 years old, but they will card you for booze even in the international terminal. I was sitting by some elderly french couple at a bar in dulles and the bartender even apologized but told them they must show their photo ID when they ordered wine with their meal.

      • n00bbanker

        I get carded a majority of time since I’m under 30 btw. Regarding the comments above, I understand the argument as to why requiring an ID could be interpreted as a poll tax. However, that is why we have humans interpreting the constitution correct?

        I see the flipside as well (let’s assume ID cards were issued at no cost to the individual) of giving too much power to big brother. On the case of requiring IDs I can see people on both sides getting incensed over it.

  • tce

    Take it up with the courts… the laws specifically say for voting you can’t charge a pole tax… so any form of ID that would cost money the courts have rule would be a ‘pole tax’. Nothing in the laws about charging/taxing for driving or drinking so forcing a person to have an ‘paid’ form of ID is allowed. Voting is different. The answer is simple though… just give out free photo voter ID’s.

    • novasteve

      tce, by your logic, if photo ID to vote is considered a poll tax, then if you don’t live within walking distance, then any cost to get there, like taking a cab, driving, or taking the bus would be a poll tax as well. So should you hav ea “right” to a” free” cab ride to your poling station?

    • tce

      … that of course should be ‘poll tax’… not pole tax… 🙂 darn auto complete functions…

      (fyi) …and from the Washington Post (8/30/12)…
      “The panel at the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that Texas had failed to show that the statute would not harm the voting rights of minorities in the state. In addition, the judges found that evidence indicated that the cost of obtaining a photo ID to vote would fall most heavily on African American and Hispanic voters.”

    • SomeGuy

      Is “pole tax” something strippers pay for the privilege to work at fine establishments? Or maybe an upcharge passed on by prostitutes to their male customers?

  • Really?

    I had to show my ID when I went to vote. I think it’s ridiculous that a piece of mail that can be pretty easily printed at Kinko’s is sufficient proof of identification to vote. Agree with @n00bbanker, I also have a hard time understanding how anyone could potentially walk around without a government issued photo ID in this day and age.

    • speonjosh

      However, I don’t know if what you can understand or think is ridiculous is really the standard by which we decide how to run the country, especially when it comes to something as basic as voting. I still have a hard time understanding why people would Tweet, but there you are. It happens and I do acknowledge that there is value for those people. Why do people not have IDs? I don’t know. I don’t care. Should we deny them the right to vote because they don’t have an ID? No.

      The politics of the whole thing is completely irrelevant. If, for some reason, this restriction disportionately affected Republican voters, you can be sure Republicans would be just as much up in arms.

  • Pat M

    Isn’t it a law that everyone has to have a photo ID? I was always under the impression that I need to have ID on me (or at least readily available) at all times. Is this not the case?

    • Just the Facts

      As in, “Your papers, please!”? No, you don’t have to carry ID with you.

      Arlington County Code 17-13 makes it illegal to refuse to identify yourself by name and address, while in a public place or a place open to the public, to a police officer when the “surrounding circumstances are such to indicate to a reasonable man that the public safety requires such identification.”

      State law just makes it illegal to give fake identifying information or the information of another when lawfully detained by the police.

      No ID required, just have to give your name and address.

      • novasteve

        Do you have to do it in english? I could give my name and address in german and just spell everything in german and use german numbers and I doubt they would know what I’m talking about. Would they call that obstruction of justice? I don’t think VA has an official language.

        • speonjosh

          I think you should try miming it.

  • David M

    You need an ID to buy alcohol & cigarettes…. No one seems to be crying about disenfranchise-ment there. I guess all those poor who can’t afford a state ID card aren’t buying alcohol & cigarettes or going into bars.

    • novasteve

      Nor can they marry or enter government buildings. I guess only white people should be able to do that otherwise there would be outrage.

    • Banksy

      But Republicans would complain if poor people spent their money (which, in their world, comes only from welfare) on alcohol or cigarettes.

    • drax

      Yes, there are elderly people who don’t go to bars or smoke or drive. Shocking, eh?

      • David A.

        They go to the bank don’t they? I see them writing checks all the time in the store. Pretty sure you need an ID in both situations.

        • speonjosh

          You could need an ID to complete 99.99% of all of life’s transactions and that still wouldn’t be a reason to require IDs to vote.

  • Who Doesn’t Have an ID?

    You can’t really do anything these days without some kind of photo ID. You certainly can’t cash a check, buy cigs or booze, or (in a lot of places) use a credit card. If you’re 18 years old and you have no way to prove who you are or how old you are, that’s just plain bizarre. If the issue is cost, then perhaps a poor person can obtain a photo ID when he/she obtains SNAP, AFDC, Section 8 or other government benefits, and the cost of the card can be deducted from benefit payments over a certain period of time. Every country in the world has some form of photo ID that all adult citizens are required to carry. Why should the U.S be different?

    • Novanglus

      Lots of people don’t have photo ID’s. (16-21 million adults, according to a recent study) They are mostly elderly, don’t drive, and pay cash for everything. Nothing that requires a photo ID is a basic constitutional right. Voting is.

      To get a photo ID, you need a birth certificate. But birth certificates weren’t mandatory in many states until the 1940’s. Many home-born people never got one. And in the South, many African-Americans had to give birth at home because the hospitals turned them away. A photo ID requirement makes it impossible for those people to ever vote, whether they can afford an ID or not.

      So these rules strip millions of Americans of the right to vote. And in 2012, proponents of these measures were vocal about their motives: it wasn’t about fraud, it was about stopping elderly African-Americans from getting to the polls and voting for Obama.

      If the issue were fraud, then a non-photo government ID (Virginia’s current rule) would be sufficient to keep fictitious people from voting. Photo ID’s prevent impersonation of a real registered voter — an unlikely scenario, because the fraud would be discovered when the real person shows at the polls.

      • speonjosh


    • speonjosh

      I the REQUIREMENT to carry an ID is pretty much limited to totalitarian states.

  • Arlington Cat

    The right to buy alcohol and cigs is not in the Constitution. The right to vote is in the Constitution. Se the difference?

    • novasteve

      The right to keep and bear arms is right in the constitution, yet you need a photo ID to purchase a gun, despite there being no photo ID requirement in the constitution. Also courts have determined for now that heterosexual marriage is a fundamental right, yet there’s a photo ID requirement to get a marriage license.

      • Just the Facts

        Not suprisingly, there are at least two flaws in novasteve’s logic:

        1. Not all fundamental rights are created equal. For example, a fee to vote (poll tax) is not allowed but a fee to marry (marriage license) is allowed. Blindly comparing the rigors of exercising one fundamental right to the rigors of another gets you nowhere.

        2. Needing an ID to buy a gun (not a Constitutionally protected right) is much different than needing a gun to keep and bear a gun (a Constitutionally protected right). You could acquire a gun in many different ways w/out ID (gift, private purchase, inherit) and then open carry it in Virginia again w/out any need to have an ID. There is no way to vote w/out an ID.

        • novasteve

          So why are democrats trying to eliminate the ability to gift guns or private sale of guns by making them go through a background check process? You think you can get a background check done without a photo ID?

      • CrazyDiamond

        You don’t need a photo ID to buy a gun if you’re making a “straw purchase” and these transactions are very common. This is one of the loopholes that supporters of increased firearms regulation are trying to close.

    • David M

      You’re missing the point, Cat. The point is that people – the people who are supposedly going to be disenfranchised, those that buy alcohol, get married, buy cigarettes, get gov assistance – already have an ID! I repeat… they already have an ID. The disenfranchise argument is empty.

      • novasteve

        Actually the right to petition courts for grievances IS in the constitution, yet you need a photo ID to get into the court.

        • Just the Facts

          First of all you don’t necessarily petition the government in a court. You can go directly to the elective body or administrative agency covering your issue. And you don’t necessarily have to do it in person. There’s snail mail, telephone, email, etc.

          And you can walk down to the Arlington Courthouse right now and walk in without ID. Well it’s closed now but when it opens in the morning….

          • novasteve

            True, but you have a right to use the court system to address grievances, but if you showed up, you’d need a photo ID to get in. And something tells me that it’s a lot more affordable to buy a photo ID than to pay for a lawyer to do your work for you in case you didn’t have a need to actually go to the courthouse.

  • LegalEagle

    It should be pointed out that the “poll taxes” outlawed by the 24th Amendment were sometimes fairly nominal. Louisiana in 1917 charged a dollar, which adjusted for inflation is apparently about $23 dollars today. So a $20 fee to get an ID is within the monetary range the Amendment was concerned with.

    However, there is something different about a generally applicable ID requirement and a poll tax you have to pay each and every time you vote.

    My suggestion is to make VA IDs free to all Virginia residents. It would very difficult to challenge that law, but Peter might still be annoyed at the frequent changes.

    • novasteve

      Even if photo ID were “Free” democrats would still oppose the voter ID requirement to vote. It has nothing to do with racism, or cost, it has everything to do with voter fraud.

  • CrazyDiamond

    I don’t have a problem with voter ID requirements per se, but I do find it interesting that the party which claims to be so “anti-regulation” proposes so much regulation when it benefits their agenda.

    • Agenda-Less

      Any “agenda” that seeks to ensure that only those people who are actually registered to vote will have their votes counted should be a party-neutral agenda. It’s not brain surgery, folks.

      • speonjosh

        Are you saying that every election held in the country prior to voter ID laws should be considered fraudulent?
        Is it not possible that smart people have considered the issue of voter fraud at some point in the last two hundred years and have concluded that requiring an ID was not necessary because the instances of fraud were so few and because other measures could be taken instead? Or are we to think that the geniuses in the Republican party who came up with these laws are the first one to have been somehow thunderstruck, their eyes opened by divine intervention to see what no one had seen before and are saving us all from being ruled by the Taliban?

    • novasteve

      Yes, because passing a photo ID to vote requirement is going to create new levels of government and a brand new department of photo ID with 2,000 employees :facepalm:

      • CrazyDiamond

        Increased regulation is increased regulation, regardless of magnitude.

  • CrazyDiamond

    And, novasteve, there is only a photo ID requirement to purchase a gun if you’re purchasing from a registered firearms dealer. If two people are both VA residents, one can sell a gun to the other with no photo ID and no background check and it’s perfectly legal.

    • novasteve

      Diamond, if democrats get their way, they won’t be able to do that anymore without a background check, and thus will require photo ID. That’s what they’re persuing as part of the knee jerk reactions after Sandy Hook despite him having stolen the guns. So I find it ironic you provide these examples which democrats are desperately trying to end.

      • b0rk

        Ah, but it serves their argument at the current state!

    • Jeff

      Very true. But keep in mind, if one of the more basic gun control laws many democrats want (and republicans too) closes that loophole, a photo ID (or more) would be required for ANY firearm purchase.

      • novasteve

        Jeff, don’t use the term “purchase”. They want a background check (thus requiring photo ID) for all gun transfers. So if you were in your own house, and your dad wants to give you a gun, that’s hard a purchase, but it’s a transfer. You would be required to get a background check, and show photo ID.

  • novasteve

    “At a House of Delegates subcommittee meeting last month, representatives “from the League of Women Voters to the NAACP — opposed the photo ID requirement as costly and unnecessary, saying it would disenfranchise minority, elderly and low-income Virginians.””

    My favorite was when they tried to claim that photo ID to vote would harm veterans because some don’t have photo IDs. That’s interesting, because they also aren’t going to get treated at a VA without their VA ID cards either. I guess that’s racist. So something tells me very few vets don’t have photo ID. But they tried to make some pathetic argument nonetheless.

  • mickey_

    I have to show a picture ID for practically everything. Why NOT positively identify each voter? The vote is one of our most valuable things. A positive picture ID insures legal voting! The ID also would require current addresses so the location of each individual can be verified. Make the voter pay for it and Virginia isn’t out a dime. Quit playing politics and do what is right.

  • Lucifer Bernanke

    Face it —- if they wanted to ensure open, fair elections, they could do it for pennies on the dollar compared to what they spend. They don’t want free and fair elections. Who ‘they’ are is for you to determine…

  • Jeff

    The author is very against an ID requirement as he believes it is solely an attempt to stifle voters and claims it would prevent tens or hundreds of thousands from being able to vote. Even if the number is high enough to make it 500,000 people that couldn’t vote if they wanted to because of a photo ID law, that would equate to 0.4% of the total vote in 2012. Factoring in voter turnout between 50 and 60% (say 55% for argument sake) and apply that to the 500k that are potentially impacted, and it’s around 0.2% of the total vote or 275k votes. As the fear is this impacts the lower class the most, a Pew Research Study in September of 2012 found that 51% of low income voters identify themselves as independent, 34% as democratic, and 16% as republican (don’t ask me why it doesn’t add to 101%, I don’t get it either). Assume on average a 50/50 split for independent voters, and you get a total of about 60% impacted voters that would be a democratic vote (165k votes) and 40% that would be a republican vote (110k). In raw numbers, Democrats are accusing republicans of attempting to “rig” the vote when by requiring ID. Combining the author’s suggestion in volume of impacted voters married up with actual data means Democrats’ fears align to a 45k vote advantage on a national level. I’m sure there’s more localized impacts in some districts, but we’re talking about a 45,000 vote difference. 45,000.

    Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all for not preventing someone from voting that should have the right to vote. But here’s a couple more things to think about. How many of those impacted voters live within walking distance? The difference would need a photo ID anyway in order to drive there (legally). A photo ID would be considered a “poll tax” as you’d need to spend money to get it, but you also need to spend money to get any other form of ID that is accepted. Utilities aren’t free; you pay for the hook up fee, monthly service fees, and the cost of the utility itself. A social security card isn’t free; there’s a charge for a certified copy of your birth certificate – a requirement for a social security card. A pay stub is perhaps the only legal form of ID that is proposed in the ban that does NOT cost money to get – although one could argue nearly every job has some cost associated with it, whether transit costs, uniform costs, or supplies.

    The author also suggests we should have no-excuse absentee ballots. He states documented cases of voter fraud are infrequent, but fails to give a scale on how many votes were cast fraudulently in order to make a good comparison of possible benefits versus drawbacks. Similarly, one needs to remember the saying about a tree falling in the woods. When someone is committing fraud, they are attempting to be undetected – they will not raise their hand in order to document the issue. It’s challenging to quantify real impacts in this case, but I am willing to bet it occurs more frequently than the number of times it has been documented. Think about it from a logical perspective – if all you need is a utility bill as ID, you could easily grab a neighbor’s bill from their mailbox and cast second vote. By sheer statistics, there is a 40-50% chance that they won’t be voting and it would never be detected. The better you know the target, the more it improves your chances for success greatly, as you’d potentially be able to garner whether or not they’re planning on voting or will be around. Granted, that is unlikely to happen on a large scale, and would likely not occur any more significantly for one party compared to the other. That being said, absentee ballots make fraud easier, plain and simple. They also make it far easier to commit fraud on a mass scale.

    I understand the author’s concern for potentially impacting one’s right to vote, but I think one should be equally concerned about the integrity of our voting system.

    • Jeff

      Wow… that turned out to be a book.

      • Venn Diagram

        And a well-written and researched one that presented viable analysis – very refreshing for this site. Thanks.

    • novasteve

      By the cost argument, everyone should have a right to cab far to a voting station if they dont’ live within walking distance because it will cost money to get there.

    • b0rk

      Great argument, and some very good points made.

  • Les Bergen

    The big issue is elderly poor, especially rural or small town w/o short access to DMV. Medicare and Social Security benefits don’t require a photo ID. A driver’s license expired more than 5 years is not proof.

    To obtain a state photo ID, one must prove he or she is a legal citizen — for most poor elderly, that means a valid birth certificate with raised seal, available from Richmond for $12. Women might also need a copy of a marriage license = ANOTHER $12.

    Then appear in person at DMV and pay ANOTHER $10 for the non-driver ID.

    Cost incl birth certificate and marriage license = $34.

    In 1966, a court decision declared the $2 Virginia poll tax declared illegal. That is equivalent to $14 in 2012 dollars.

    • Jeff

      Les, if you care to read the short novel I wrote above, you’ll note all the forms of ID proposed in the ban also end up costing money. A pay stub is the only item you can possibly argue does not cost you money, but if your argument is the elderly poor, they almost certainly do not have a pay stub. If the rural areas or small towns are the concern, then one must almost certainly drive to perform daily functions, let alone vote. To drive (legally) requires a driver’s license, which is a photo ID. Some still may be impacted, but again looking at my post above, you can see the incredibly minimal effect requiring a photo ID will actually have.

      Some may say that’s right, it’ll have a minimal impact, and minimal is too much. Fair enough. Just ask yourself if the minimal impact is enough to offset the (admittedly difficult to quantify) amount of fraud this could potentially prevent.

  • Westover

    How do people get through life without a photo ID? If they are poor, how did they get their benefits approved? When I had to apply for unemployment a few years ago, I needed a photo ID. Really, asking for an ID to prove you are voteing as yourself and only voting once is not a real burden.

    • novasteve

      Can you even pick up mail that the post office is holding for you without photo ID?

  • luckdog

    I wonder if there are statistics on the type of ID used to vote. I imagine the vast majority of voters already use a driver’s license or govt issued photo ID. I doubt that a change to require a photo ID would really impact the results of an election. Seems like a silly argument.

    • novasteve

      It would reduce voter fraud, thus could impact the results of an election

  • Fairlington Chris

    I’m surpirsed no one’s mentioned the obvious-we all have to provide photo ID to get healthcare. Beginning in 2014, Obamacare’s exchanges will be implemented (BTW, another disaster waiting to happen). This will solve the problem of no IDs. Anyone not covered by employer-sponsored insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, or self-insured will have to be ennrolled in an exchange or pay a fine. Whom does that leave out? Voter ID laws are NO BURDEN on certain segments of the population, especially when these laws provide for free state-issued IDs.

    • novasteve

      Illegal aliens aren’t subject to obama care, so that wouldn’t address the problem of voter fraud by them, though it would help out with people voting more than once, dead people voting, etc.


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