Why opposition against voter ID is indefensible


By: Robert E. Meyer

Recently the legislature in the state of Wisconsin passed a law requiring ID to vote, with certain specified exceptions. Many people have voiced their opinion opposing requiring voter identification. I have trouble understanding those objections.

Their primary objection is that potential voters will be disenfranchised because the requirement to furnish identification impacts certain people who may have trouble acquiring it. To buttress their position, they point out that statistically speaking, there have been only a small number of instances of prosecutable voter fraud here in Wisconsin.

The idea that identification requirement disenfranchises voters is a spiel that borders on absurdity. The objection is based on stereotypes. Why is this protest predominately coming from those who are ideologically left of center? Are there not elderly, disabled, economically challenged, or ethic minority voters, who are conservative voters as well?

Well, in answering a few of these questions, I have my own anecdotal experience to guide me. My own Mother is in her ’80s, is totally disabled, is not wealthy, and has never driven a car. She has had identification as long as I can remember. She is a voter that has consistently voted for conservative candidates based on principle, yet falls into a socioeconomic category that is pigeonholed as the bastion of the liberal constituency. If my mother could get an ID under her circumstances, anyone can get it with advanced intentions. 30 years ago, I was a economically challenged young adult, but never was tempted to vote for a liberal political candidate. I have a feeling my experiences are not unique. If conservatives were hoping to marginalize certain potential voters, they would be cutting off some of their own as well. We can also look to other states that have similar election laws as Wisconsin, to see if there are actually prior problems with voter disenfranchisement.

The claim that voter fraud is uncommon is a red-herring. Simply because there are statistically few prosecutable cases is hardly an argument that nothing much is going on. When I was a youth, I constantly heard that shop-lifting was a serious problem, and that it was responsible for the increased price of merchandise at retail stores. Only a small number of shop-lifters were actually caught, so is that reason to assume the problem was being purposefully exaggerated?

A little over two years ago, my wife and I lost our home and all belongings in a devastating fire. When we rebuilt our home, we had to be very budget conscious because gaps in our insurance policy curtailed our settlement. Now, should we have declined placing locks on the doors to save money because none of the homes in our neighborhood was ever burglarized before? Or for that matter, why put a stop sign at an intersection where there has never been an accident? Suppose a company employs two workers, one of whom frequently calls in sick, and one who has never done so. It might be presumptuous to say that the first employee is abusing sick leave, but you would know for certain the second one was not.

There is no mention made of the deterrence effect the new laws will have on schemes that are difficult to prove. Take for example a typical quid pro quo–a gift or favor for a specific vote. Let’s curtail opportunities regarding questionable practices of enticing people into voting on election day, when they otherwise have taken no interest in the election. What I find egregious is that such an individual is capable of cancelling out the vote of someone who selects only after considerable deliberation.

Voter ID will prevent this type of gambit, or similar opportunities of questionable propriety, because the otherwise disinterested voted isn’t going to bother getting the ID ahead of time unless he’s serious about voting in the first place.

The last point segues into my next assertion that the act of voting requires a certain level of baseline commitment. At the founding of this country, you had to be a landholder to vote, and later on, a tax-payer. Was that required to perpetuate an aristocracy? Hardly. Common understanding was that if you wanted a voice in civic affairs, you ought to be a stakeholder in society, with skin in the game as well. It was a check against people voting for themselves the largesse of the treasury, funded by the productivity of others. One might also surmise that your identity had to be revealed to determine whether you owned land or had paid taxes.

I’m not suggesting we go back to those qualifications, but there ought to be a minimal investment in something as important as voting for representatives. Getting an ID, so that your identity can be verified is that standard of minimum commitment. Up until now, there has been more due diligence in determining that one is the author of a letter to the editor sent to my local newspaper, than verifying the same person’s identity at the polls. That is pathetic.

The final garnishment they add to their boilerplate objections, is that conservatives normally worried about fiscal discipline, are willing to spend considerable funds on the ID requirements. Conservatives don’t have only a single principle, saving money at any cost, but also an ethical requirement to lawful process. When principles come into conflict there is a cost/benefit analysis. There is confidence that any extra expenses implementing voter ID will be recouped by electing economically astute representatives.

Voting for public officials has to be a more thoughtful process then selecting a snack from a vending machine.

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