Friday, April 13, 2012

Voter Identification Laws: Why Is This Such a Big Deal?

By now you've probably heard the controversy about requiring voters to show a government issued ID card. If you've been living under a rock, here's a summary: Several states have enacted laws or are considering laws which would require all voters to present a government issued identification card prior to casting their ballot. As a result, all hell has broken loose as political groups cry foul, some voters claim they are being discriminated against and others feel their religious beliefs are being violated.

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Some people believe its classic example of blaming the rules because there are people can't or won't follow them. Others think it is a calculated effort to suppress votes among African Americans, Latinos, the recently incarcerated, the young, the elderly and those most inclined to vote Democrat.

I don't want to go into detail about all that because I'm not sure where I stand on the conspiracy theories but I do know this: When the state of Georgia enacted a voter photo ID law in 2006, black participation in that state's November elections actually increased from 513,700 to 741,000. Oh, and on a side note, approximately 25 percent of African Americans in the United States don't have a government issued ID. That alone should raise concerns on how disenfranchised and disconnected our communities have become.

As neighbors, friends and family (in other words, members of a community) shouldn't we help new arrivals and the elderly get their pictures so they can exercise their right to vote? Wouldn't that be a lot easier than all this fussing? And speculating? And finger pointing? And to the people who generously volunteer their time at the polls, is the extra second or two that it takes to check a person's ID really that time consuming and labor intensive?

Maybe, just maybe, this isn't an issue about racism or an attempt to suppress anyone's vote. Perhaps it really is about preventing voter fraud. Because the truth is, we don't live in a world where everyone is honest all the time. People – regular people, people in power and people wanting power - have been known to become so obsessed by their desires that they resort to dishonest behavior to achieve what they believe is the best outcome.

Although is not regularly reported in the news and it may not be predominant in all states, voter fraud happens. There are charges right now against four Indiana Democrats that allegedly forged signatures to get Barack Obama onto the 2008 primary ballot for that state. ACORN is famous for promoting voter fraud. Nine cases of fraud in 2011 city elections have been identified in Iowa. There are several more examples from Florida, and probably many more from around the country. These were just from the first page of a Google search for “voter fraud cases.”

Isn't a requirement that voters prove their identity the best way to combat fraud? Wouldn't voter ID laws protect the integrity of elections, so that Americans can know their vote counts? And what is the big deal about showing an ID anyway? You need it to pick up concert tickets at the box office. You also need to show it when you write a check and board an airline. Heck, last week I was asked to show ID when I bought allergy medicine. Is it really that unreasonable to be asked for it when voting for the leader of the free world?

Just thinking out loud today. I apologize for a blog full of questions, but here's one more: What are your thoughts on the new voter identification laws? Don't be afraid to share your opinion. Friend me on Facebook or find me on Twitter.

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