Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Get out the Vote! It might be your last chance

Yeah, yeah.  I know that many other states have enacted voter ID legislation.  And I know that the courts have, so far, generally upheld them.  That should ease my mind, right?


First, where's the fire?  So far, no one has provided any evidence of widespread and intentional voter fraud.  They haven't even been able to provide evidence of either one separately.  Recently, proponents of voter ID trotted out a single example of a woman who stupidly voted for her daughter, who was off at college, with an absentee ballot.  Wow.  That's pretty overwhelming.  Absent that, at least in Minnesota, there are the examples of felons who voted because they didn't realize their full voting rights had not yet been returned (a confusing situation, considering every state has different laws regarding felon voting rights).

So, the evidence is not overwhelming that there is widespread voter fraud.  A few dozen out of millions of votes.  And in none of the cases was it intentional.  Most importantly, we know about these because the system ALREADY WORKED.

Note how his eyebrows look evil. (Borrowed from
Even assuming we only know about them because they all turned themselves in following their illegal voting sprees, their votes would not have significantly affected any outcomes.  "But wait!  What about Al Franken and Norm Coleman?" some might say, "Those few dozen votes could have made the all the difference in the world!  After all, that commie (short for comedian, right?) wouldn't have been Senator, then!" (Fox "News" even put out a very unbalanced article titled "Felons Voting Illegally May Have Put Franken Over the Top in Minnesota, Study Says.")

Wrong.  If anyone that followed that election (and recount and recount and recount and recount...) and bothered to put their brain in gear, it would have been clear that EVERY vote was scrutinized.  Every ballot was scoured for defects.  Every voter on every list was analyzed and considered.  If Norm Coleman could have pointed to illegal voting as the cause of his loss, he would have.  Even his attorney conceded that there was no widespread voter fraud.

Second, where's the solution?  Even if we concede that voter fraud is a bad thing (which it is), and that it needs to be stopped right now (it should be), will voter ID fix our (apparently not so) horribly corrupted voting system?

Survey says?  No.

While convicted felons that have been let out of prison on parole may not legally be able to vote yet, they have perfectly legal access to identification.  As does every other person legally residing in a state within the United States.  As of right now, at least in Minnesota, a state-issued identification card does not denote voting status for US citizens.  So, simply requiring an identification card doesn't fix the supposed problem.

Why not add something to an identification card that says whether or not you're eligible to vote?  Great question!  (At least on its surface.)  If a felon has a legitimate identification obtained before conviction, then you'd have to require felons to get a new ID for use only during parole.  If you can't find any difficulties in that, you're being naive.  Beyond that, the length of time a felon can be on parole varies, ranging from a few months to many years.  The life span of a driver's license, the most common state-issued identification, is 4 years in Minnesota.  If you have a driver's license, you know why you wouldn't want to have to get one more often.

Aside from being a test in patience, getting a new identification is a test in flexibility.  That is, flexibility with your job, your transportation, your time, and your cash.  A driver's license is not free; they're $15 to $24, depending on the license type.  And even if we make voter IDs free, they are STILL not free.  If you've ever had to get a copy of your birth certificate, you know that.  If you ever had to take time off your job, drive to the DMV or other state government location, and get a new driver's license just because you moved, you know it's not free to get an ID.

They're still not free.  Even if we removed ALL of those other expenses.  We will pay for them via taxes, especially if we moved to create a new ID only usable for voting.

Above and beyond the cost of the IDs themselves, we will need to pay for the infrastructure required to utilize IDs to allow voters to vote.  And figure out how to get more volunteers recruited and trained to run the polls during elections.  And hire extra voting judges for questions related to provisional balloting.  Etc.  While the costs, in the millions for the first year alone, are only in the millions (chump change, if you look at the state budget), we're talking about additional costs at a time when we simply can't afford more.

We're doing it because we can.  Clearly, without a need and without a solution, and in light of unnecessary costs, one must ask 'why?'  For voters that may vote for such a change--to be put into the state constitution in MN, not in legislation, and without any practical details--the answer might be because they believe the problem is severe.  Or they might believe that it's somehow not fair that people can cheat (regardless of whether they actually do).  Or they might believe that you simply can't trust people to be able to vouch for one another.  "Those dirty bastards vouching for granny at the assisted living home might just vouch for that illegal immigrant that I just KNOW is voting to take away my job!"

Public paranoia and me-vs-them-ism.

For the politicians, more is at work in this issue.  It's about a couple of things: numbers and numbers.  The first is the number of people likely to vote for politicians that agree with you.  Generally speaking, those people most affected by being required to get a piece of plastic with your picture on it in order to participate in the political process are poor or have lower mobility.  People who are not flexible with their jobs, their transportation, their time, or their money.  Democrats.

The second is the number of people that will come out to vote.  Republicans are catering to their basest of the base.  They may have discovered that people on their side are, on average, luke warm about gay marriage and people on the other side are fired up as hell about it.  Democrats might actually be motivated to go to the polls over that one.  And while they're there, they might vote to kick your bigoted ass out of office.  Oops.

Why should we care?  It's just a bit of money, right?  People who vote for the amendment are obviously ok with the cost, and majority rule, and all that.  If there's no problem and no solution, it's ok, right?  All's fair in politics, so whatever gets out the vote must be fine, right?


Any time you put up an impediment to voting, you are stepping on those rights afforded to us as Americans.  While we want to keep our polls pristine, it is far uglier to prevent natural born (and legally naturalized) citizens from voting.

You might rationalize it this way (and people do): Well, people need IDs all the time.  To drive, to get a bank account, to travel.  I don't see how anyone could not live without one, and in any case, they SHOULD have one.

Driving, owning a bank account, and entering a foreign country are not rights.  Voting is.  We should not base our ability to vote on our ability to do things that are not essential rights within the scope of being an American citizen.  AN AMERICAN CITIZEN!

In any case, there are plenty of people without IDs, who have no need of one.  A great number of them are senior citizens, including veterans.  People who owned this country before your sorry ass was born.  Should we disown them as voting members of our society just because they don't get around much anymore?  They can't mail order a new ID because they let their driver's license expire.  And getting the grand kids to drop by just for a visit, let alone to escort them to the government building to get a new ID, is a chore.  To further complicate things, if you were born before a certain period of time, finding proof of your birth to get an ID is difficult.

A good number of people on the edge of poverty, particularly the WORKING POOR, don't have access to getting an ID.  Not everyone has the opportunity to take off work at noon, spend forever at the DMV or other government office and fork out $24 of otherwise-grocery money, to get an ID.  In many cases, the reason they don't have one is because they walk or take the bus everywhere because they can't afford a car.  Ever try to get a bus to the right place at the right time in a reasonable amount of time?  Yeah...just double the necessary time to get anything done.

Outrageous!  Yes, a proper American should be indignant about the whole ploy to keep grandpa and poor people from voting.  But, so far, courts have upheld it.  If you think that means everything is hunky dorey, think again.  Who is being disenfranchised here?  People who have the least access to IDs are also the ones with the least access to the legal system.  The courts have only so far held up the laws as being constitutional on their face.  The practical effects of these laws have not yet been tested.  The courts have pretty much said that if it actually results in a poll tax (which IS unconstitutional), these laws must be struck down.  To which proponents of voter ID say "See!  No one has complained!"  Ah...but there's the rub.

These are the people with no means to complain. 


  1. "They may have discovered that people on their side are, on average, luke warm about gay marriage and people on the other side are fired up as hell about it. Democrats might actually be motivated to go to the polls over that one. And while they're there, they might vote to kick your bigoted ass out of office. Oops."

    Happened in Ohio with the right-to-work law. GOP gov and GOP legislature passed it. Opponents got it on the ballot. Voters slam-dunked the law from here to Sunday. And while at the polls in Cincinnati, they defeated all Republicans on the city council ballot. Republicans in Ohio have short memories. Same thing happened in the late 50s. Here are the gory details from last November:

    "Issue 2 seems to be dragging the Republican Party down," said Wayne Lippert, an ousted city council member.

    Hamilton County Republican chairman Alex Triantafilou: "No question that Issue 2 played a significant role in this."
    Hal Davis

  2. Thanks for the article, Hal.

    For what it's worth, I don't think it's about GOP leaders or politicians having short memories. I think it's about hoping that voters have short memories and/or simply denying the majority with the hopes of persuading them that they're in the minority and should just give up. It's a very wicked emotional warfare tactic that gets used in every major and not-so-major news outlet. The trolls are posted (and sometimes paid) to comment on articles and belittle, intimidate, and bully the progressives into believing it.