For the Narcissist Lover in You…

Ways Conservatives are (Maybe?) Wrong, Part 2: the vote police

Here’s part two of my “Ways Conservatives Might be Wrong” series.  And why not?  The installment on gay marriage wasn’t in the least a firestorm of clashing ideologies, was it?  (cough!)

I should point out why I am doing this.  I am a conservative, after all.  But one of the things that most poisons any coalition of like-minded thinkers is group think.  It is inevitable.  People become so identified with their philosophy that it becomes a part of themselves.  They cease to question it, and soon enough they begin swallowing its tenets whole, without ever pausing to chew on them a little.

Political ideologies are like families, though, and every family has a few crazy uncles.  These are the noisy, opinionated ones that get sloppy drunk and spout half-baked conspiracies and embarrassing bigotries.  The crazy uncles, unfortunately, are the only people that other families notice.  There are two solutions for dealing with the crazy uncles: 1) you can carefully– and publicly– dissect their philosophies and acknowledge their flaws.  Or 2) you can pit one family’s crazy uncle against another family’s crazy uncle and charge admission while they beat themselves to death with chairs.

This is how elections should be decided.

The following is my attempt to publicly examine one of those conservative issues that, to an outside observer, may look a bit like the ramblings of a drunken crazy uncle.

So first off, I admit that the idea of voters potentially needing to present a photo ID makes perfect sense to me.  You need ID to do almost anything these days.  It simply does not seem like it is placing an unfair burden on anyone.

So a few days ago, when I heard that Attorney General Eric Holder was launching a campaign to resist voter ID laws, I was strangely perplexed.  Because as much as we political animals like to go on and on about the stupidity of politicians on the other side, I know that people who reach very high levels of government are generally not stupid.  Look at George Dubya, the poster boy for the dummy politician: he reads more books per year than most Americans will read in a lifetime, which most of us agree is a sign of the better-than-rock-stupid.  So when A. G. Holder publicly announced that voter ID laws unfairly targeted minorities, I knew he wasn’t just being stupid.

I did a little research.

Turns out that I, like most of us, assume that the way my life works is the way everybody’s life works.  For me, the idea of not having a government-issued ID is akin to those dreams where you find yourself at school with no pants.

Or on the bridge of the Enterprise.

I need ID to drive my car, open a bank account and cash checks, use credit cards, and generally prove my identity in any number of situations (up to and including those unfortunate run-ins with the police when I really do forget to wear pants).  To a typical white suburban goombah like me, photo ID is a foregone conclusion.

Turns out, though, a lot of Americans aren’t white suburban goombahs, and according to the actual statistics, a lot of them do not have photo IDs.

I had to ponder that for awhile, and it still sorta blows my mental gaskets.  How does anyone get through life without an ID?  I am, of course, assuming that these individuals are actual American citizens.  Well, perhaps a lot of them are too poor to require bank accounts.  Perhaps a lot of them live in cities where cars are impractical and unnecessary.  Perhaps they are simply too old to drive.  I don’t know, I sorta run out of ideas about it, but apparently the statistics are what they are: an unusually high amount of minorities simply do not have photo IDs.

Thus, if you take away all the distracting politics and debate about the necessity and reasonableness of voter ID laws, one uncomfortable fact remains: if those laws are put into effect, a large number of Americans will need to obtain photo IDs solely for the purpose of voting.  In effect, voting will cost them money– money the Attorney General believes many of them do not have.

Now, admittedly, this is the same Attorney General who famously dismissed the Philadelphia voter intimidation case in which Black Panthers in military regalia wielded clubs outside a polling place, claiming that focus on the case demeaned “my people”.

“I HATE crackers!  In my clam chowder.  That’s all I’m here to say.  Happy voting.”

The fact that there appears to be a rather preposterous degree of double standard in play doesn’t give conservatives an excuse to ignore the true ramifications of proposed voter ID laws.

Do we want to be responsible, even indirectly, for putting a roadblock– a surmountable roadblock, certainly, but a roadblock nonetheless– in front of any person’s right to vote?

I honestly don’t know.  Here are the arguments.

On one hand, voter fraud is a real problem.  Both sides blame the other for it, thus presumably both sides would be keenly interested in curbing it.  Voter ID laws would undeniably go a very long way toward that goal.  Seriously, this is 2012– not requiring proof of your identity to vote is preposterously casual for such an important privilege.  It’s the equivalent of the tin can honor system for coffee refills (sorry, Kaldis, I keep meaning to drop a fiver in there someday).  This was no better evidenced than when a random white dude was offered Attorney General Eric Holder’s vote.

If requiring ID to vote is anti-minority, how is the same not true for requiring ID to drive?  Logically, the same people opposed to voter ID should also vigorously oppose driver’s license requirements, and for the same exact reasons.  Seriously, you can’t even buy a six-pack without ID.  Voting is as least as important as that, isn’t it?

On the other hand, voting IS important, and everybody should be able to do it without having to pay for the privilege.  It is a simple fact that many Americans won’t be able to vote unless they fork over cash for a photo ID that they otherwise (somehow!) don’t need.  Insisting vocally that they can all damn well grow up and get a life along with the rest of us is not only insensitive, its counterproductive.  It proves the suspicion of many minorities that white Republicans would rather they just didn’t vote at all.

(the blank white space says it all)

So there has to be a better solution, right?  As with the gay marriage issue, nobody is going to get everything they want.  Perhaps requiring government-issue photo IDs is a bit too much to ask (I know, I know, it doesn’t seem like any big thing to a lot of us, but for a lot of people it apparently is).  But it is also clearly ridiculous to leave something as sacred as voting to the honor system.  Come on, we’re smart people!  We can compromise on an inventive solution without just digging in our stubborn donkey (or elephant) heels and insisting on our way or the highway, right?

My wife, totally off the top of her head, suggested this: if you don’t have any ID when you go to vote, you just scan your fingerprint into a computer and go right ahead and vote.  If anyone else presents a photo ID for that name, the original vote is nullified.  If someone votes with an already scanned fingerprint, the original vote is nullified.  Simple and elegant, right?  It wouldn’t require anyone to buy an ID they don’t already have, and it would eliminate a lot of overt voter fraud.  Seriously, all it would require is a temporary database for the fingerprints and some cheap biometric scanners for a laptop at each polling place.

Of course, eventually people would be screaming about invasion of privacy by having to scan their prints, or creating elaborate conspiracy theories about how the government was hoarding all those fingerprints to keep track of minorities, yadda yadda, blah blah.  And who knows, it might even end up being true.

First the fingerprints.  Then this.  I’m not joking.  Really!

The point is, we can all certainly come up with a functional solution without breaking everyone’s personal moral codes about creating roadblocks to voting and/or allowing the Powerpuff Girls to vote two hundred times in fifteen different states.  We’re smarter and more creative than that.  But first, we have to be willing to recognize the valid concerns of those on the other side and truly be willing to forge a meaningful compromise.

And not surprisingly, that’s exactly the same solution that we came up with for the whole gay marriage thing, too, right?  Huh.  Who’d a-thunk it?

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23 responses

  1. David Michael Lee

    Excellent post. But You referred to “mental gaskets” … you have more than one?

    June 1, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    • A gasket is, like, a fuse, right? Or a spark plug? A Dilithium crystal? How many do cars have of those? I need to be more careful with my analogies.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm

  2. Josh D

    Frankly, I don’t really think I understand this issue, and I don’t think I understand why conservatives in particular are most concerned about it.

    How big of a problem is voter fraud? Does it happen in large enough numbers that the vote is tipped in any state elections? You’d have to have a concerted and organized effort to make any impact with fraudulent voting that would undoubtedly be noticed by SOMEONE. Maybe voter fraud could tip a local election in a county with a population of 15, but how big of a problem is voter fraud REALLY?

    You need a voter registration card to vote, right? Is it really the case that in some places you can just walk in and say “I’m George Norman” and vote? I just can’t see how defrauding the system would have any impact unless it happened in an organized fashion. I fully concede that I may just over looking something obvious here… maybe someone could break down the real threat of voter fraud and point me to some statistics on how often it occurs?

    June 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    • I’ll leave the research to someone else (I’m researched out after that one) but I would say that there are a huge number of people who believe the 2000 presidential election (Bush v. Gore) was a monumental example of voter fraud.

      In virtually every election in my recent memory, there have been noisy accusations of widespread voter fraud on both sides. It does seem evident that it’s an issue both parties care about, and with some good reason, methinks.

      June 1, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      • Josh D

        Yeah, but correct me if I’m wrong – aren’t the accusations of fraud in that case related to what occurred AFTER the vote? With the recounts? Or were people saying voter fraud was the reason for the recounts. I thought that was hanging chads….

        June 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    • Josh D

      I guess to summarize:

      You register to vote. You get a card with your name on it that comes in the mail. You can use this or your ID. You get a designated polling place where they have to verify your voter registration card or id against a name printed on a list that says you can vote at that place. If you happen to know the name of another voter registered at this place, and you go through the trouble to forge a voter registration card or id with their name on it and go to vote as them – it will send up a red flag the second that person shows up to vote and it turns out their name is already checked off (if they already haven’t).

      This isn’t strict enough fraud protection?

      June 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      • Regarding the existing voter registration system, one would certainly think it would be sufficient, but I would simply point to the above link, where a guy was nearly allowed to cast A. G. Holder’s vote for him because the poll workers did not require any meaningful proof of who he was.

        I suspect a lot of conservative suspicion about the existing voter registration system stems from longstanding democrat efforts to bus in voters of questionable status, informing them how to vote along the way. When democratic politicians resist stiffer voting ID requirements, it *appears* to be a means of protecting this tactic.

        June 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      • Josh D

        I can’t say I’m incredibly familiar with the tactic you’re describing, but is there something fraudulent about bussing in voters and encouraging them to vote for a particular candidate? They still need some kind of card or id to vote, right?

        Sorry, I don’t mean to be that guy who takes up the whole conversation – I’ve just been trying to understand this issue. Also trying to avoid that image of a couple of good ol’ boys smoking cigars around a poker table with scantily clad cocktail waitresses in Rupert Murdoch’s basement talking about how to help republicans win elections when one of them jokingly says “Hey, we could require voters to show a photo ID! At least then we’d weed out the poor folks!” and after a good laugh they all agree “…we might be onto something”.

        June 1, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      • Conservatives in general (speaking as one) are suspicious of the vote of people who don’t care enough to get there on their own (not to mention be willing to have their votes dictated to them). And again, registration only counts if it is being enforced. I will do a little research on it, but the widespread implication is that many, many people are being not only allowed to, but encouraged to vote without any proof of registration, or with outright fraudulent registrations.

        Regarding the spectre of stereotypically evil Republicans, I suspect it is no more accurate than the opposite spectre of shifty Democrats bussing in illegal immigrants by the hundreds and buying their votes with a coupon to McDonalds (which is sorta the point of these discussions in general).

        Stereotypes aside, it’s an issue that should be addressed by both sides in a productive way, methinks. Simply dismissing the concerns of the other side doesn’t seem helpful (not that you are doing that, Josh. I sense you are just trying to understand the argument.)

        June 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      • BTW, here’s one of the first links I found about voter fraud: http://articles.cnn.com/2008-10-09/politics/acorn.fraud.claims_1_acorn-officials-voter-fraud-voter-registration?_s=PM:POLITICS

        Apparently, a lot of the fraud takes place at the point of registration, before anyone sets foot in the voting booth.

        And here is one quick example of Democrat attempts (which have been very successful) to change elections via bus canvassing: http://busproject.org/ This organization happily takes credit for “getting some great people elected”. It may not be illegal, but rounding up otherwise disinterested bodies and training them how to vote for specific candidates, regardless whether its a Baptist church shilling for Republicans or bus volunteers pushing Democrats, is not exactly democracy in action. It doesn’t seem that taking the next step and simply forging voter registrations, as shown in the above link, is much of a stretch.

        June 1, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      • Josh D

        Sorry, I couldn’t help myself in pulling out the (comically exaggerated) cocktail republican defence against the shifty democrat argument. 😉 I didn’t intend that as a legitimate argument.

        Yes, I am trying to understand the issue – for sure. But I’m not trying to dismiss the other side. What I’m asking is… is it REALLY an issue, or is it just another political smoke screen? I don’t know the answer, though I have my suspicions. As you point out in your thesis – as with any issue, it’s easy to get people of any political persuasion worked up about something that they’re not really thinking through.

        If people are being allowed to vote without their registration card or ID, I think the answer is a little more simple – it has to be strictly enforced from the top down at the polling place that without a valid form of identification (a voter registration card, a government issued ID, a birth certificate) that matches up to a name on the roster, allowing someone to vote makes you an accessory.

        Plus, if polling places are already allowing people to vote without any identification – what’s going to stop them from continuing to do that if we enable a law that disproportionately affects people who vote democrat?

        These are not rhetorical questions, by the way. I’m just genuinely trying to sort this issue out – I don’t want to believe it’s just some kind of political tactic.

        June 1, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      • I tend to agree. Where there are existing laws that are simply not being enforced, it always seems most logical just to enforce them, rather than pile more laws on. Simply doing that would eliminate this issue (methinks), whether it is legitimate or simply, as you mention, a political smokescreen.

        June 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm

  3. Hester

    I live in Florida. The first time I voted here, I brought my duly signed voter registration card, The lady at the polling place wasn’t interested. All she wanted to see was my driver’s license (or US passport) .. no problem. But, of course, having a license to drive a car only proves that I am Me (sort of). It in no way proves that I am ELIGIBLE to vote. While it prevents Me (or Mickey Mouse) from voting more than once, it doesn’t really do anything about the US citizen issue.

    My sister lives in Wisconsin. That state has no ID rule and is currently fighting the requirement. Considering the recall issue right now in that state, I am not surprised.

    My solution to this problem is fairly simple. If it is required to be a US citizen to vote and an ID to that effect is necessary, then just provide one to every citizen for FREE.

    Driver’s licenses don’t count because they don’t prove citizenship but people who already had valid passports (even expired ones) wouldn’t need to get one of these “voting ID’s”. OR maybe everybody should just be issued one once a VALID BIRTH CERTIFICATE is produced. Most people don’t have problems (ahem) providing such a thing.

    I mean, the gub’ment provides minorities lots of other less useful things for free so why not the Voter ID? And, of course, it would be provided to everyone so as not to be discriminatory…

    See? The right thing to do is always simple, James… just not always easy.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    • Heh! As always, Hester, you are the voice of fairness and reason.

      June 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

  4. markwms

    Couple thoughts:
    1. Tag the ballots of those who refuse/cannot/will not provide photo verification of who they are to give the ballots a “Verified/Unverified” status.

    The ballot will count the same regardless of status, but some measurable data can be analyzed to see whether the outcome of a questionable election would be swayed by the non-verified ballots. (It would also give some data to how many people don’t have/won’t get ID’s)

    Going a step further, In electronic ballots, scan the ID and associated it with the ballot as metadata.

    2. Steal from the Iraqis and dip a finger in dye.That gives the voter one trip through the line. If they want to cut their finger off to go through again, so be it. Each voter gets up to 9 extra votes per lifetime. (11 if they are Antonio Alfonseca)

    This will also address an issue where St. Louis County currently refuses to purchase “I Voted” stickers (which get the voter a lot of freebies on election day) because they say they are too expensive. If I hold up my pink thumb, I get free Starbucks (or whatever).

    3. For absentee ballots, include a copy of your photo id to “Verify” your application. Or should we outlaw absentee ballots because the cost of a stamp is disenfranchising voters?

    4. And of course, US Citizenship is not the only requirement to vote. . .you also can’t be a felon.

    June 1, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    • “If they want to cut their finger off to go through again, so be it. Each voter gets up to 9 extra votes per lifetime. (11 if they are Antonio Alfonseca)…”

      LOL Mark

      June 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm

  5. Jane

    I have to admit, I’ve always been baffled by the Democratic response to this issue. My solution would be much like Hester’s: if someone is on a form of public assistance, when they go to apply for a driver’s license, the fee is waived. I suspect this would not only solve the voter fraud issue, but also help out people who may well need driver’s licenses, but simply do without.

    June 1, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  6. zixi1

    Here’s a link for Josh, giving a small sample of just how widespread fraudulent voter registration was in just the 2008 election. http://www.rottenacorn.com/activityMap.html In one case, 33,000 registrations were suspect in one city (Milwaukee). Those kinds of numbers can certainly affect the outcome of an election.

    Now for my two cents (you knew I’d have to put it in, didn’t you?) First, the states wanting to pass laws requiring photo ID’s have, for the most part, stated their willingness to provide them for free. Secondly, anyone who is in such drastic financial straits that he/she cannot afford a $2 to $5 fee is probably collecting some kind of government assistance; and in my state at least, you must provide a photo ID to qualify for any kind of assistance. Thirdly, it seems that there’s very little you can do without a photo ID these days–buy beer, cigarettes, visit the doctor’s office or a hospital emergency room, get a job–I don’t see how anyone gets through life without one. I have to believe that anyone who objects to showing an ID in order to vote has an ulterior motive in not wanting to show one. They don’t seem to object to showing their ID to do any of the other things I’ve listed above.

    That being said, I wouldn’t even insist on a photo ID. I’d be perfectly happy if people just had to show their voter registration card. In my state, we don’t even have to do that. I’ve long ago stopped presenting my card when I sign the book and receive my ballot. It makes me wonder why they even bothered to send me one. Almost everyone should be able to present SOMETHING with their name on it, if only just a piece of mail. It seems to me that the only people objecting are the ones who stand to lose the most votes if election fraud is slowed or stopped. Perhaps that gives us some insight into who the real culprits are? Hmm, I wonder…

    June 1, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    • Zixi, yours is exactly the sort of informed and pertinent comment I was looking for. You present some very good points, research and suggestions.

      The takeaway from your comments (as well as Jane’s and others) is that if you remove the cost of a voter ID– or as Josh suggested, simply enforce laws requiring voters to present their voter registration– then the situation is neatly resolved without any undue impact on minority voters.

      Once again, we solve the world’s problems. What shall we take on next??

      June 2, 2012 at 1:14 am

  7. LOL Geo. I believe we can solve anything here. Before we tackle a new challenge, I’d like to provide another link for this one, just in case there are doubters among us.
    http://nation.foxnews.com/eric-holder/2012/06/01/holder-orders-florida-stop-removing-ineligible-voters

    This is a story that’s getting a lot of coverage right now. Florida is a nearly must-win state for a presidential candidate. As an informed citizen, conservative or liberal, I have to ask why the U.S. Attorney General doesn’t want ineligible voters removed from the rolls. Job security, perhaps?

    June 2, 2012 at 8:17 pm

  8. Hester

    As a Floridian, I, too, wonder why the Feds are so adamant that we stop removing those who are “questionable” from the ranks of those who can legally vote. As a former Milwaukean (with family still there), I am appalled at the voting process currently in place there. Apparently, I could show up at a polling place this coming Tuesday and vote. The nonsense that went on not too long ago with all the State Democratic “leaders” absconding over the state line to avoid voting on the collective bargaining issue was an embarrassment.

    I read (or heard) somewhere, that the only way a Democrat could currently win almost anywhere was with some degree of voter fraud. The fact that anyone even thinks this is really scary….

    June 2, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    • Scary indeed! Hester, have I ever told you how much I appreciate your posts? If I haven’t, forgive the oversight and let me tell you now. You have a real talent for cutting to the bottom line.

      June 2, 2012 at 11:24 pm

  9. Benjamin McLean

    What about people who don’t have fingers?

    July 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm

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