Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The reincarnation of the poll tax?

I just read that by a 6-3 margin, the Supreme Court has upheld the Voter ID law in the state of Indiana. This coming only a few days before the pivitol Democratic primary election.

According to MSNBC:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws. In a splintered 6-3 ruling, the court upheld Indiana's strict photo ID requirement, which Democrats and civil rights groups said would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Its backers said it was needed to prevent fraud....

...More than 20 states require some form of identification at the polls. Courts have upheld voter ID laws in Arizona, Georgia and Michigan, but struck down Missouri's. Monday's decision comes a week before Indiana's presidential primary.

The decision also could spur efforts to pass similar laws in other states.

Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said he hadn't reviewed the decision, but he was "extremely disappointed" by it. Falk has said voter ID laws inhibit voting, and a person's right to vote "is the most important right." The ACLU brought the case on behalf of Indiana voters.

The case concerned a state law, passed in 2005, that was backed by Republicans as a way to deter voter fraud. Democrats and civil rights groups opposed the law as unconstitutional and called it a thinly veiled effort to discourage elderly, poor and minority voters — those most likely to lack proper ID and who tend to vote for Democrats...

...There is little history in Indiana of either in-person voter fraud — of the sort the law was designed to thwart — or voters being inconvenienced by the law's requirements. For the overwhelming majority of voters, an Indiana driver license serves as the identification.

Read the rest of the article here.

For once, I think Republicans got something right. I'm not diametrically opposed to the idea of using identification to vote. I mean, even in my home state of Michigan, I've seen voters who were able to hit the polls without showing so much as a paper ID. So I think having a legitimate form of picture identification is a necessary thing; especially when we recall the debacle in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election; where certain people (many of whom were black) were erroneously denied their right to vote because of identification issues. Knowing who cast a vote is one of the best check and balance systems we can have.

Still, I'm deeply concerned that a misapplication of this law could spell trouble for minority and poor voters; particularly those who would most likely vote Democrat. While I think that people should have identification anyway and not just for the sake of voting; I fully accept the reality that many people simply do not. The hundred bucks or so that I can spend to keep my identifications up to date is not necessarily a privilege held by poorer people. For those people, mandating them to purchase ID for voting comes dangerously close (to me) as reinstituting the poll tax; which was deemed unconsititutional after the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

If the Voter ID law is to be effective without trampling on the poor and marginalized, I think the government should create a universal Voter Identification Card for all age-appropriate voters. These cards should include the person's name, photo, social security number, date of birth, and an unduplicable seal. Further, these cards should be issued as a courtesy to anyone who decides to exercise their right to vote (including convicts). Anything less than that is a slap in the face to democracy.

That's what I think. But what say you?

- ACL

9 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

Mike said...

If there is a certain type of ID needed (i.e. a state-issued ID), I wonder how this rule would affect college students who may not be from that state. Besides them, I can see how this law would impact blacks, latinos, elderly, and the poor. I'm sure the Republicans thought this up when they came up with this rule.

Andre said...

Mike,

You raise an interesting point about college students. That's yet another example of how the Voter ID law could have terrible misapplication. But if the government were to place a sticker on the cards they issue (similar to organ donor stickers) perhaps that could identify special voters who are attempting to vote in an area outside of their hometown. College students, military personnel, etc. all come to mind.

Megan said...

Andre,

You know that I'm with you on most things, but calling this a poll tax is a bit of a stretch. It's simply a measurement taken (so smart that I'm suprised it came from Republicans) that will reduce the possibility of voter fraud. If anything, it will ensure that people's votes are NOT disenfranchised since voters won't get mistaken for somebody else.

I hope I don't come across as some snooty white person, but instead of being too critical about this law, maybe the greater society should be more concentrated on urging people to get ID for themselves. I'm not sure why you think it's so expensive to do this. Besides, the ID's serve a much greater purpose than just allowing one to vote. ID is used in every circle of society.

Andre said...

@ Megan: "...instead of being too critical about this law, maybe the greater society should be more concentrated on urging people to get ID for themselves. I'm not sure why you think it's so expensive to do this..."

I don't think it's that simple. True, ID's don't cost a whole lot, but think of all the other hassles associated with getting ID. Getting ID often requires social security #'s, birth certificates, etc. This may seem easy to get for you and me, but for some people (elderly folks, poor people, disabled people, etc.) it's EXTREMELY hard. You might be interested to know that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimate that around 11 million people in this country don't have access to a passport or birth certificate. Now, the CBPP has been accused of having a liberal bias, but I haven't heard any studies that refute these findings.

Andre said...

I should also point out -- in Indiana's defense -- that their DMV offers free ID's for people who don't have them.

That's a good start.

Anonymous said...

Oh, for heavens sake! What's the big deal? You need ID to buy beer. Why NOT require it to vote?!

Andre said...

Um...anonymous: Using ID for beer purchases is for determining age eligibility, not voter registration.

Still, I get your point. I'm not arguing against using ID for voting. I'm just saying that before it becomes law, there should be provisions in place to protect those without equal access to that ID.

The H.C. said...

Hey Dre,
I agree with you that in this day and age everyone should have some form of ID. Anyone who's ever be in a car when the driver gets pulled over knows that not having one can lead to all kinds of harrassment. Voter fraud is hard to prove, especially once you've got away with doing the voting. Michigan ID's are only about $20. A good solution for the Dems would be an out reach to make sure these people get them. Since you need ID for nearly everything nowadays I believe it would actually help the poor to get one.

heiresschild said...

i know i'm waaaaay late with this one, but i've been away from the blogs so i'm trying to catch up a bit today.

i think people should have ID's anyway, especially with so many immigration situations that have arisen. as an election judge here in MD, ID's aren't a requirement, which means anyone can come in and say they're so and so, and who knows the difference? we do ask them to verify their address and birth date however.

out-of-state college students would have to vote by absentee ballot in their hometown anyway. absentee ballots can be used by anyone who feels they can't make it to the polls on voting day; they just have to do it within a certain time frame before the election.