Now that the battle over Voter IDs is afoot, it becomes clearer & clearer that increased voter cynicism and a weakened democracy are the most likely outcomes; barring a change in the terms of the debate. The biggest problem at this point is that whatever the political motivations behind efforts to enact Voter ID laws, those opposing these new laws fail to acknowledge the fact that most Americans required to show photo ID in so many facets of their day-to-day lives aren’t likely to have much sympathy for people who can’t be bothered. They might be sympathetic to the plight of the millions of voters now potentially disenfranchised, but that won’t make them think it’s a bad idea to require ID to vote; they’ll just think people without ID should go get one. Of course that is sometimes easier said than done, especially when political operatives pushing Voter IDs are simultaneously creating new roadblocks to securing that ID. All of which adds up to more cynicism and little chance that voting conditions will actually improve.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way to combat voter fraud without disenfranchising anyone. Even better, it can make our election process much more secure than Voter IDs alone could ever accomplish, while providing immeasurable benefit to communities across the nation. All that is required is to conditionally embrace Voter IDs as part of a more extensive reform making it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” as GOP Party Chairman Reince Priebus put it. Here’s how:
1. Create a new federal photo ID which could be used in situations requiring ID, including voting. Provide federal funding to libraries and law enforcement agencies who agree to take on the task of helping citizens procure a federal photo ID. The extra funding could be used for any purpose, as long as basic requirements were met in regards to assisting with photo IDs. This approach to the Voter ID problem kills two birds with one stone – reversing the counterproductive trend of decreasing funding for these public resources at the exact moment when public need is increasing – while simultaneously providing voters a convenient outlet to procure a free photo ID.
2. Ensure that lack of one form of documentation (such as a valid birth certificate) doesn’t prevent procuring ID if another means to verify identity can be produced; a major issue for older, minority and/or rural Americans. Library or law enforcement officials would review required documentation, enter the person’s relevant information, take and record a digital picture of the person, and then send this information off for processing. The ID would be produced centrally, most likely by a private company contracted to do so by the government, and mailed either directly to the person or available for pick up where the ID was generated.
3. Disabled, elderly or rural voters (living more than 10 miles from any library or law enforcement office assisting with IDs) would be able to schedule in-home appointments to procure photo ID. A contractor – much like a notary public – could be hired to drive to that person’s house, verify documentation, input data, take a digital photograph, and send it off for processing. Hospitals, Long-Term Care and Elder-Care Facilities could be serviced similarly.
4. Provide funding to states who voluntarily expand access to voting via early voting, voting by mail, or similar ways to give voters greater ease & opportunity in casting their ballots. Similarly, in states where photo ID is required to vote, allow voters with photo ID to register to vote on Election Day.
5. Require voters in any state using computers to either record or compile votes to initial a paper record of their vote. This paper verification could come in the form of a punch-hole or mark next to the candidate’s name, or a print-out from a computerized voting machine. The voter would simply verify his/her choice(s), initial the paper copy and place it in a receptacle. There would be an automatic audit of a small sample of paper records contrasted against the computer result. Discrepancies would trigger a wider audit or even a recount, ensuring that it is the will of the voters and not that of computer hackers (or those employing them) being carried out. Finally, states would receive funding to update their election equipment and train election officials in order to become compliant with these changes.
This approach would put people’s right to vote – and to have that vote accurately counted – above petty partisan politics. The first four reforms would protect against voter fraud by requiring ID, something the Democrats would need to accept as part of a larger compromise, while making ID easily available and thwarting Republican attempts denying ID to Democratic-leaning constituencies. The fifth & final reform deals not with the individual fraud that Voter ID targets, but the system-wide fraud perpetrated by computer hackers; which is the greater threat by far.
If the Department of Defenses, CIA and FBI can be hacked, it’s probably safe to assume that the unsophisticated array of voting systems we have across this country wouldn’t be too great a challenge to any hacker even mildly determined to tinker with voting results. Yet even as we require people to show ID when voting at the risk of disenfranchising millions, we remain completely trusting of the computers recording and/or compiling votes; so much so that we require absolutely no means to verify the accuracy of their count. Does that strike anyone else as odd?
If we are going to protect our vote, let’s really protect our vote from all threats of fraud; without forcing voters to choose between allowing voter fraud or disenfranchising voters. We can do far better than that. Adopting this solution has the potential to transform a looming dark chapter in our electoral history into a reaffirmation of our commitment to a government chosen by a popular vote of its citizens. Join us in demanding of our leaders a better approach to protecting our vote, our right to vote, and ultimately…our democracy.
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The first camp is the political operatives who profit from all of this chicanery. This camp is very, very small, but worth mentioning because they are also largely responsible for…
The second camp consists of the people Allan was describing…those who know people are being disenfranchised, but don’t care because their ‘side’ benefits. I’ve written before about how the constant need to fundraise & campaign leads to an exaggeration of the differences between political sides that achieves a short-term political goal at a significant long-term cost to our democracy.
At the end of the day, we all mostly want the same things, we just have different ideas about how to get there. The two sides are not as far apart as we are led to believe, and compromise is possible, but not without reforming the pay-to-play system we have now. The willingness of so many to throw off core democratic principles just demonstrates how much damage this smear campaign has done. That so many would view political opponents as enemies and traitors – to the point of willingly disenfranchising people to secure victory in an election – is proof of how badly we have lost our way.
The third camp is who those wanting to put a halt to this nonsense should be targeting. They are the people who wrongfully believe that getting ID is a snap. They need to hear more stories about student IDs being banned by the same people requiring ID and the like. They need to hear more stories about people are having to pay to get ID, and then demand someone explain how that isn’t a poll tax. They need to hear about the people who first voted during the Great Depression suddenly can’t vote. This stuff is being reported, but it’s ancillary – it needs to be the focus.
But there must also be a solution that doesn’t leave our elections vulnerable to voter fraud…as the status quo seems to the majority of voters to do. Whether anyone actually perpetrates fraud or not is completely irrelevant, yet that is the center of the entire campaign against Voter ID.
My solution shifts the debate by using the momentum of Voter ID laws to enact a reform that largely neuters the negative outcomes of those laws, bolsters struggling communities in the process and secures voting machines – the far greater threat as far as voter fraud is concerned. If anyone else has a better idea, I’m all ears, but the current strategy is bombing and needs to be changed.
It is precisely this distinction that should be highlighted by those defending people’s right to vote. Under my proposal, there are those who won’t get ID and won’t be able to vote due to laziness. However, there are also numerous people who are having difficulty obtaining ID and this would give them a lifeline – one that also bolsters local communities and makes elections more genuinely secure.
Additionally, many of the laws that have made procuring ID difficult have been passed by the same people passing the ID laws. Making it more difficult to obtain the very ID you made a requirement to vote is the definition of “disenfranchisement”.
Those opposed to this disenfranchisement should highlight this distinction – currently made by alternative media and such, but by few on the big stage – and throw over the lazy people to save those who want to vote. On the current path, they’re all going down.
I think the word disenfranchised is being misused here. The voter ID laws do not eliminate the right to vote. If someone doesn’t have an ID, they still have the right to vote. Voters are already turned away at the polls, if they haven’t registered, but that doesn’t make them disenfranchised. There is a big difference between depriving someone of the right to vote and depriving someone of an opportunity to vote in an election, because they don’t have an ID.
Since writing this, I would add Post Offices to the list of where ID could be procured, adding some much needed funds to the beleaguered service (maybe a stepping stone to repealing the retirement funding poison pill and changing their fortunes instantly). I would also stipulate that any funds allocated to law-enforcement be spent not on weapons or the like, but on supplying ID and any adjoining public outreach programs.
It’s a fluid idea, but again the bottom line is there needs to be a different approach from the current strategy that is failing voters being denied their rights. An approach that bolsters local communities and secures vulnerable voting systems would seem to be one worth exploring.
This isn’t about forcing something on the states, but rather providing safeguards to ensure people have access to the vote in states where that right is being threatened. That is well within the federal government’s constitutional authority; as is establishing standards as demonstrated by the Help America Vote Act.
Also, I’m not sure what new federal bureaucracy would be formed by this, but it certainly does sound scary. Allocating funds from a pool of money to local agencies making ID readily available could easily be handled by an existing federal agency. Otherwise, everything else is in the domain of the FEC (a completely different problem).
Bottom line, Voter ID laws are going up and many will stand up to court challenges. People are being disenfranchised, yet the battle for public opinion is being lost. Whether it is my solution or another, those who care about democracy need to find a new approach to dealing with this serious problem. That is the overriding point I am trying to make.
Everyone must have the same standard for procuring an ID. We can’t allow the Federal government to allow relaxed standards for certain segments of the population. That would be unconstitutional.
Every state already has a mechanism in place for citizens to obtain identification. A new Federal Voter ID bureaucracy is a waste of money and won’t be any more efficient than the state run systems.
Obviously, by checking IDs, you’re going to turn away those who don’t have an ID. There is no way around that. And that’s the argument against IDs.
Your solution is to create a new unconstitutional Federal bureaucracy with the power to relax the standards of identification to be the final arbiter of who is eligible to vote.
Rence Priebus is being deliberately disingenuous when he “regrets” any loss of valid voting rights, and minimizes the number of voters affected. This is their plan, to counteract the Democratic advantage with minorities, students, the elderly and poor (especially poor elderly minorities) by simply not counting their votes.
Actually, the MORAL choice is to ALLOW fraud where we would have to deny INNOCENT voters their voice in order to “prevent” fraud. Just as our justice system is built on the philosophy that it is better to let a thousand guilty go free than to punish one innocent. But this GOP and ALEC invention is precisely designed to punish a thousand (or even a million) innocent voters for each fraudulent vote they stop. Indeed, they do not care if any fraud is stopped at all, as long as it is a cynical excuse to remove “unfriendly” legitimate voters from the election.