• Micah French

Why Do People Think Voter ID Discriminates?

I'm going to start by saying that I think showing an ID to vote is a good idea. I am pro-voter ID. However, I'm also able to keep two thoughts in my head at the same time, and I fully understand why some would push back on the idea.


Note that my stance on Voter ID is a personal belief, it's not necessarily the Libertarian stance which leans more in the direction of "government issued ID is over-utilized in society, and in almost all instances shouldn't be necessary."


As with all things, there's nuance in the Voter ID conversation. Having to show ID to vote is not inherently bad, but that doesn't mean its A) a flawless concept and B) not used in a nefarious manner.


If you're one that thinks, "How in the world can anyone be against Voter ID?"...let me explain.


BY THE NUMBERS


I'm talking in Trends here, not in Absolutes. Percentage is where this game is played.


It's estimated that around 11% of voting age US Citizens lack a government issued photo ID. If you peel back an additional layer you'll find that nationally it's believed that up to 25% of the Black population in the US doesn't have a government issued photo ID.


Like a lot of things this stat seems to track alongside poverty.


If you grow up in a poor household, especially in an inner city where the need for long distance travel is diminished, you're less likely to ever own a car or have access to a vehicle to practice for your driving test. That makes the prospect of a Driver's License for some both unnecessary and difficult to obtain (even before you factor in problems with DMV locations).


Additionally there is usually underlying documentation that you need to obtain one of those "free" government IDs to take the place of a Driver's License. For example you typically need to provide your birth certificate or Social Security Card (or both) when obtaining a "free" government issued ID.


People living in poverty are twice as likely to lack this underlying documentation. It's not a given that they have that "important docs" filing folder in their closet with their Birth Certificate and Social Security Card that others commonly do.


In Florida a replacement Birth Certificate costs ~$10. Cross our northern border into Georgia and the cost goes up to ~$25. Other states can run near $50 after all fees are accounted for (ironically California being one of the most expensive).


Think in terms of percentage here. $10 or even $25 is not a big deal to the vast majority of Americans, but to a % of American Citizens digging for spare change in their couch on a regular basis, spending even that amount of money is a significant decision.


Then there's the prospect of traveling to the location to physically obtain the ID.


If you're an hourly worker with multiple jobs can you take 2 hours off to stand in a line at the ID Office? What does that cost you in lost income? On your 1 day off a week (maybe) are you going to make the decision to wait in that line instead of spending that day with your family?


Then there are extreme instances like in Texas where some people live 100+ miles from their nearest ID office. Again, not everyone needs to travel 100 miles, but we're swinging fractions of a percent with each one of these elements and shavings make a pile.


The often repeated line, "people should be able make the effort to obtain an ID, you need it for everything now a days," is all a matter of perspective. There is a portion of US Citizens that don't live like you or I. They are cash based, have limited internet access if any, don't carry a wallet with IDs and Credit Cards. That does not make them any less of an American Citizen.


We stopped openly means testing as a prerequisite for voting a long time ago, and although it's the natural tendency to look down on these individuals as being in their position due to some assumed bad decision making, most are just trying to do their best and it's f*ckin hard out there.


Moreover, for some of these people this really is the only way they have a voice in this country. They can't speak with their wallet, or take the time to organize a demonstration, voting is literally the only way they have to express their needs and concerns.


To those who believe that government issued ID is free and easy to obtain for everyone, you're not wrong for most, but you're wrong on some, and when the some make up +2-3% you start to get to a number that has an actual impact on election outcomes.


Because poverty tracks so closely to some of these obstacles, and also so closely to race in America, it's easy to tie it all together. That's where you get the mantra "Voter ID is Racist." I'm not going to unpack that concept in this article, I may write on it separately.


MOTIVATION


This is where voter ID really faces it's fiercest, and arguably it's most valid opposition.


"Fraud. They said there’s 66,000 people in Georgia under 18 voted. How many people believe that? I asked, 'Give me 10,' hadn't had one. They said 8,000 felons in prison in Arizona voted. 'Give me 10!' I hadn't got one."


- Republican Lindsey Graham, Senate Floor on Jan 6th 2021 (Lindsey Graham's complete speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHkYlRm_XM)


Time and time again claims of voter fraud only hold up in the court of Twitter and Facebook, and fail miserably when scrutinized in the real world.


Sidney Powell, one of Trump's attorneys during his 60+ lawsuit blitz post-election, just recently had to defend herself in court and submitted the defense that, "reasonable people wouldn't have believed as fact her assertions of fraud after the 2020 presidential election."


^That's a real thing that happened, this isn't fake news. When it actually mattered Trump's lawyer's story changed to, "[only an idiot would have believed the voter fraud claims.]"


In the last 20 years there have been less than 100 total instances where voter impersonation was proven in court. In that same time period there have been over 1 Billion ballots cast in elections. That's a rate of 0.0000001% for proven cases of voter impersonation.


If wide-spread voter impersonation isn't a thing, why are states scrambling to enact Voter ID laws to fix this non-existent problem?


Elections, especially recent elections, swing on 2-3%. Republicans, the party that is currently proposing voter ID laws across the country, know that the group of people most likely to be negatively effected by voter ID laws is not their voting base. Any reduction in the number of voters is going to come out of the pocket of their opposition.


It's easy to argue that this is politically motivated, not factually motivated.


Republicans make it doubly easy to argue that point when they go out of their way to do extra dumb stuff.


Texas accepts a Concealed Weapons Permit as a valid form of Voter ID, but won't accept a Student ID... What?


Is it because Student IDs are easier to fake than Concealed Weapons Permits? No. Is it because Texas busted a Voter Fraud ring that used Student IDs? No.


It's because Students tend to vote Democrat and Concealed Weapons Permit holders tend to vote Republican, and Republicans control the state body that sets the rules. It's a blatantly partisan use of Voter ID laws.


Makes it really hard to defend the position that Voter ID isn't a partisan issue when you're clearly using it in a partisan manner.


Finally, Voter ID also brings an additional factor into play, the views of the poll worker checking the ID. Are poll workers held accountable if they scrutinize IDs in a discriminatory fashion?


"Is this ID real? Do you know what the punishment is if you try to vote illegally? This doesn't look right to me." Take a population who are used to not getting a fair shake when it comes to law enforcement and criminal justice, and statements like this can turn them away. Fear of law enforcement, fear of unlawful prosecution, is a very real thing to a lot of people of color.


Voter ID provides a touch point where those with evil intentions can influence the process. How often does that happen? It's all anecdotal... just like voter fraud allegations.


KNOWING ALL THIS WHY DO I SUPPORT VOTER ID?


I feel like I've laid out a short but relatively comprehensive argument against Voter ID laws, so why am I in favor of them?


The short answer is, I view it as America's voting immune system.


If you're not sick, your immune system is unnecessary in the moment. America's voting process is not currently sick, it was heavily scrutinized in 2020 and after 60+ cases there was only 1 instance where the Trump team won an argument, and it shifted the vote total in PA by like a handful of votes.


Our election system is not perfect, but it's far from broken. That doesn't mean the American election system will never be sick.


Voter ID in it's purest form strikes an appropriate balance between election integrity and negative consequence. We can't have nothing in place, and anything is going to effect someone. I think Voter ID finds the equilibrium between integrity and barriers to entry.


That is an eyes wide open opinion. You will never hear me present the bad-faith argument that Voter ID doesn't hurt anyone. You'll never hear me present the bad-faith argument that it doesn't matter that it creates an unequal burden to a % of the US Citizenry. Any time you make it harder for someone to vote you strike at the very heart of American democracy.


All those things are true, and all those things matter. There has to be some balance however, and you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Our system will never be perfectly safe, or perfectly accessible, you have to find balance.


Republicans and Democrats don't talk about Voter ID in this manner however. They're both completely incapable of nuance at scale.


There is a caveat to my support...


What I don't support is all this secondary BS that the Republicans tweak in the fine print of Voter ID laws that are meant to exacerbate the discrepancies.


Republicans actively seek ways to take voices away from as many people that don't agree with them as possible, while crying about Democrats doing the same to them on social media. Of the two platforms I consider Voting more consequential, so Republicans give away their moral high ground in these arguments. Any Voter ID law that has that kind of garbage in it's fine or bold print is something I fervently oppose, as should any American.


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