Much ado about photo ID

The photo ID bill that caused such a flap in the House yesterday is one of those classic issues that partisans make a HUGE deal over, and which seems to me entirely undeserving of the fuss.

The way I see it is this:

  • It's ridiculous for Democrats to act like this is some kind of insupportable burden on voting, even to the point of walking out to dramatize their profound concern. Why shouldn't you have to make the kind of basic demonstration of your identity that you have to make for pretty much any other kind of transaction?
  • It's ridiculous for Republicans to insist that we have to have this safeguard, absent any sort of widespread abuse here in South Carolina in recent elections. Where's the problem necessitating this big confrontation with the Democrats? I don't see it.

Some of you defend parties by telling me that they legitimately reflect different philosophies and value systems. Well, when you scratch the surface and get at the values that inform these two overwrought partisan reactions, it doesn't make me feel any better either way. In fact, it reminds me why I can't subscribe to either party's world view.

Democrats believe at their core that it should be EASIER to vote. I look around me at the kinds of decisions that are sometimes made by voters in this country, and it seems to me sometimes that far too many people who are ALREADY voting take the responsibility too lightly. Look at exit polls. (Or forget the exit polls, just try going up to people on the street and asking them a few pointed questions about public affairs.) Look at what people actually know about candidates and their positions and the issues, and look at the reasons why they say they vote certain ways, and it can sometimes be alarming. Hey, I love this self-government thing, but it's not perfect, and one of the imperfections is that some folks don't take their electoral responsibility seriously enough. So why would I want to see the people who are so apathetic that they don't vote NOW coming out and voting? Yet that seems to be what many Democrats are advocating, and it disturbs me.

And beneath all that sanctimony from Republicans about the integrity of the voting process is, I'm sorry to say, something that looks very much like what Democrats are describing, although Democrats do so imperfectly and in overly cartoonish terms. There's a bit of bourgeois disdain in the GOP position on these things. There is a tendency among Republicans to think of themselves as the solid, hard-working citizens who play by the rules, and to be disdainful of those who don't have their advantages — which Republicans don't SEE as advantages at all, but merely their due as a result of being so righteous and hard-working and all. There's a tendency to see the disadvantaged as being to blame for their plight, as being too lazy or immoral or whatever to participate fully. The idea is that they wouldn't have these problems if they would just TRY. What I'm trying to describe here is the thing that is making sincere Republicans' blood pressure rise even as they're reading these words. It's a tendency to attach moral weight to middle-class status. Republicans seem to believe as an article of faith that there are all these shiftless, marginal people out there — relatives of Cadillac-driving welfare queens of the Reagan era, no doubt — wanting to commit voter fraud, and they've got to stop it, and if you don't want to stop it too then you don't believe in having integrity in the process.

So basically, I'm unimpressed by the holier-than-thou posturing from either side. And I get very tired at all the drama over something that NEITHER side can demonstrate is all that big a deal. Democrats can't demonstrate that this is a great injustice, and Republicans can't demonstrate that it's needed. And yet we have to put up with all this drama.

31 thoughts on “Much ado about photo ID

  1. T

    As a working-class democrat, this action on behalf of the LBC angers me so much I’m having trouble stringing together an intelligent response. I will say that the LBC should be more concerned with disenfranchising the working-class Dems such as myself who help elect them rather than African Americans in general. These black officials need to spend a day in a public school classroom or an emergency room to witness first-hand the strain that illegal immigrants place on our social services. If anything, African Americans are more disenfranchised by illegal immigrants than by Republicans and should be more concerned with ensuring that they do not have voting power in our state.
    If you don’t care enough about voting to make the necessary (if any) sacrifices to obtain a free state-issued photo ID, you don’t deserve to vote.

  2. Lee Muller

    As a former Democrat who registered hundreds of new black voters, and as poll worker and poll watcher, I have seen a lot of voter fraud, attempted voter fraud, vote buying and voter intimidation – all by Democrats.
    Illegal voters cancel out the votes of honest citizens.
    Illegal alien workers and voters take away the votes of blacks, and the jobs of blacks in this state.
    We need positive identification of every voter, during registration and at the election.
    We need to end all instant voter registration, such as “Motor Voter”. If we lose out federal highway funds for refusing to enable fraud, so be it.

  3. bud

    In my previous post I was referring to Brad by the way, not T or Lee.
    Sure it’s no big deal to require a photo ID. Everyone should have one. I’m ok with that. But I don’t want to make a general declaration that voter disenfranchisement is not a problem. I think it is. It’s a 100% certainty that many black citizens were not allowed to vote in Florida in 2000 for false reasons. It certainly cost Al Gore the election and the nation is still paying dearly. So let’s require an ID to vote but make damn sure every legal citizen can get one easily, without undue hardship and for heaven’s sake lets make sure we don’t disenfranchise legal voters the way it was done in 2000.

  4. Phillip

    Like bud, I basically concur with your view, Brad. For that matter I’m bothered a bit by the trend towards early voting, too, preferring that the country (in federal elections) voice its collective opinion more or less simultaneously at a determined point in time.
    I know you have critical things to say about both parties, but I just have to say that your phrase describing the GOP mindset as “disdainful of those who don’t have their advantages” and “a tendency to see the disadvantaged as being to blame for their plight” is as succinctly eloquent a summation as I’ve read anywhere.
    “Disdain” in particular is the only word I can think of to describe Gov. Sanford’s attitude towards the unemployed of this state.

  5. Ish Beverly

    We have got to have proper voter photo ID. And as Lee said, during registration as well as the election. The Democrats verified yesterday that they have always cheated, plan to continue, and we have to put a stop to it. bud is wrong on all points again. No properly registered voter, with proper ID, and at his or her designated place to vote is denied to vote here in SC or in Fla. My contact in Fla. says that was all media hype in 2000.

  6. Lee Muller

    All voting should be on the same day.
    No “early voting”, because you don’t know all the facts until the morning of election day. You don’t even know them all then, but you know a lot more than the early voters knew.
    Absentee voting should be very restricted, to deployed military and people working out of town and on vacation, and they must prove it with hotel bills, etc.
    There are too many students voting illegally, in the wrong states, wrong precincts, and often in several states, by absentee ballot. Democrats use that cheating tactic quite a bit.
    Another tactic I have see used by Democrats is stuffing the ballot box with phony absentee ballots after the polls close. The crooked poll workers provide names and voter IDs of people who did not vote. Then crooked Postal workers assist a team of people who manufacture phony absentee ballots and post date them. You can bet Al Franken used that.

  7. I know you

    Lee Muller:
    You are a liar.
    Otherwise, your actions are criminal for not reporting a federal crime; as you say yourself: “I have seen a lot of voter fraud, attempted voter fraud, vote buying and voter intimidation – all by Democrats.”
    God himself made violations of the “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” commandment a big-ten sin for a reason; shame on you and your lies.

  8. slugger

    There is absolutely nothing wrong about having to submit a photo ID in order to vote. Why would you object? You have to present photo ID for a lot of other things in your life. I am always being asked to present my drivers license with photo ID in order to pay anything by check.
    Lee has about said all that I was going to add. No point on my duplicating what he has posted here.

  9. Amor Fati

    I am really having a hard time with your “balanced” finger pointing. Just why shouldn’t the Democrats want as few obstacles as possible for people to vote, especially given this state and the South’s sorry history of disenfranchising the black voter at every opportunity?
    Did you forget this state capably produced Lee Atwater?
    Reading further on, about all the sorry, ill-informed — No! — scandalously uniformed voters and, by golly, you begin to sound like all those other self-made, buttoned-down, played-by-the-rules, sanctimonious, lock-up-our-white-women republicans you are feigning to dismiss in the very next paragraph.
    No wonder the blacks feel they have to throw such hissy fits. They get no serious consideration in these quarters. Perhaps next time you might post a better thought-out screed on our badly behaving legislature.

  10. Brad Warthen

    Perhaps I should start a separate post on this, but I want to concur with Phillip’s concern about early voting.

    We’ve had a number of debates about that here on the board, and I’ve been told that my reasons for opposing early voting are vague and sentimental. Perhaps they are, but I cling to them nonetheless. While Democrats and Republicans have their ideological reasons to fight about that, too, it’s a communitarian thing for me. I actually get all warm and fuzzy, a la Frank Capra, about the fact that on Election Day, my neighbors and I (sometimes folks I haven’t seen in years) take time out from our daily routine and get together and stand in line and act as citizens in a community to make important decisions. I’ve written columns in the past celebrating that very experience, such as this one in 1998.

    I believe in relating to my country, my state, my county and what have you as a CITIZEN, not as a consumer. That calls for an entirely different sort of interaction. If you relate to public life as a consumer, well then by all means do it at your convenience. Mail or phone or text it in, what’s the difference. It’s all about you and your convenience.

    Something different in required of a citizen, and that requirement is best satisfied by everyone getting out and voting on Election Day. And I don’t like the idea of undermining that with early voting.

  11. ARS

    Me neither. Early voting is for sloths and corruption.
    “I know you” —
    Lee Muller is not a liar. He is the only “voice” in my daily dose of media that said it loud enough:
    It is supposedly locked up in some vault in Hawaii. This whole thing makes me think we have been swindled. And I will think that way for a long time. Maybe forever.

  12. Rich

    The picture ID is an added burden to a ridiculous, patchwork voter registration system that, regardless of the intentions of lawmakers, depresses the rate of voter participation. Prior to the Civil War, there was no registration. All white males showed up and voted in droves. Estimates are that 95% on average voted. After the Reconstruction, southern white governments instituted registration as a means of depressing or eliminating the minority vote and keeping as many poor whites away from the polls as well. This nonsense remains today. After Reconstruction, black voting was virtually eliminated by 1898 and white voting had become severely depressed.
    We need a system that encourages people to vote while preserving the basic honesty of the voting process. We should look to the European Union for inspiration.
    People are registered to vote at birth and given national identity cards usable anywhere in the their home countries. With the wonders of early 1990’s computer technology, secure voting over the internet or at polling places with one’s national identity card is now possible (much the same way we buy things over the internet).
    I think Republicans know what they’re doing. They’re trying to depress the vote. When I moved recently from Dentsville back up Hard Scrabble, I had to re-register to vote–right within Richland County!! Had I failed to do so, I could not legally have returned to Dentsville to vote since I no longer live there. I would, in effect, have been affirming a lie.
    The system has go to get better if we want 95% participation. But I would ask our Republicans in this state, is this what you really want? Or are you not aiming to depress the potentially Democratic vote in order to retain your grasp on power, much as your spiritual antecedents did during the Jim Crow era??

  13. martin

    Since HIIPA went into effect, you have a show a picture ID when you’re seeing most healthcare professionals for the first time and they make a copy.
    Picture ID is not a burden. No early voting; might need to change the voting day to Sat. or encourage greater participation. Strict rules about absentee voting. I live in a town of less than 5000. I have read fradulent absentee voting is most apt to happen in municipal elections. When our current mayor has 700 absentee votes that never came in before for anyone, I smell fish. 700 votes is more than the usual total votes by our demoralized-by-corruption populace.

  14. Barry

    Brad- I contacted my Rep – Anton Gunn about this issue. He wrote a very nice and speedy response to me. He agreed with me that there was too much drama. He also indicated he didn’t have a real problem with photo id’s. He said that the Democrats had no opportunity to offer amendents to the bill (he was intersted in a grace period, and making sure that folks would receive mailings and adequate notices at various places, as well as allowing them to use other photo id’s).

  15. Jenny

    The fact is, presenting a photo ID does not present an undue burden, and what amazes me is that all the rebuttals made against the democrats line (I am a democrat, btw), never actually come right out and say it.
    No citizen has a hard time getting a photo ID, in fact, without one, a citizen can’t rent an apartment, acquire utilities, cash a paycheck, a social security check, a welfare check. No citizen can get a job without a photo ID, register for college, and so on, and so on. It’s as simple as that, perhaps that’s why no one bothers to actually state it plainly in the face of the lies told to stop the requirement.
    I agree that far too many citizens don’t take the obligation of voting seriously. That’s why I was so angry at those who whined and complained about Iowa and New Hampshire having their positions as the first states to vote in presidential elections. At least the voters in those states do take the process seriously. I wish more states did so.
    People here illegally do not have a right to vote in our country, and it does cheapen what citizenship means, to allow them to violate our laws.
    When you consider what is happening in Mexico, it’s plain that as a culture, they do not respect the rule of law. Corrupt democrat politicians reinforce this disrespect for the rule of law among illegals, by inferring that they (illegals) have “rights”, but citizens do not. It is encouraging a mindset among illegals that they can actively violate the rights of citizens, and will be allowed to get away with it.

  16. Rich

    I don’t see any of you engaging my idea that we Americans actually LEARN something from Europe in order to get the same rate of voter participation they have.
    The picture ID is just one more hurdle that makes hash of the 15th amendment. Face it, folks. A lot of you conservatives just don’t really want everybody to vote!!
    In this age of high technology, I should be able to access an online governmental account and, with secure access, vote within a certain time frame.
    But, what would that do? It would widen the franchise. Can’t have that. How would Republicans ever win otherwise?? Gotta get those tax cuts for the rich!!

  17. Weldon VII

    No, Rich, I just don’t want anybody to vote twice in the same election, particularly not overpaid social studies teachers.
    Furthermore, it makes no sense to say people too poor or too old or too stupid to possess a photo ID are going to be voting online.
    Pretty soon, you’re going to be saying the government should buy all those folks computers so they can learn how to sign their names.

  18. Rich

    The more I read what you write, the more I understand why the black majority on your school board outvotes you time and time again.
    I don’t want people to vote twice any more than you do, and with COMPUTERS and SECURE ONLINE ACCOUNTS with the government, we could prevent a lot of it.
    Why can’t you and a lot of other conservatives admit that America just might have something to learn from Europe??

  19. Weldon VII

    Rich, the black majority outvotes me because they always vote together, and four is greater than three.
    Curiously, though, I’ve never participated in a 4-3 vote, or even a 5-2 vote, and only once have I been the odd man out in a 6-1 vote.
    With respect to Europe, we learned to get away from Europe more than two centuries ago, and twice during the last century, we saved Europe from itself in two world wars, and then we brought about a German reunion.
    So what’s your plan? You want us to learn the art of surrender from the French or how not to cook from the Brits?

  20. T

    “Face it, folks. A lot of you conservatives just don’t really want everybody to vote!!”
    Two of the posters here (myself and Jenny) who support the requirement to present a photo ID in order to vote are democrats. You are wrongly equating a desire to preserve the sanctity of the voting process with a wish to deny eligible citizens their vote. You’re presenting the issue as one differentiated along liberal/consevervative lines when obviously it is not.

  21. Lee Muller

    I report voter fraud whenever I find it. The examples of voter fraud tactics I described above came from real cases in which federal authorities did prosecute and convict Democrats who were Postal Workers, food service union members, and others working in a conspiracy to manufacture fraudulent absentee ballots.
    The next time you libel me, try using your real name, and it will be your last post. I can always have a court force Brad Warthen to turn you name over, you know.

  22. EMELKS

    The more I read what you write, the more I understand why the black majority on your school board outvotes you time and time again.
    I don’t want people to vote twice any more than you do, and with COMPUTERS and SECURE ONLINE ACCOUNTS with the government, we could prevent a lot of it.
    Why can’t you and a lot of other conservatives admit that America just might have something to learn from Europe??”
    Just what do you want from Europe? The government tracking birth to death? The absurd economics? The hedonistic navel-gazing?
    If you think Europe is so great, I recommend spending some extensive time there.
    For those of us who can manage to obtain and maintain basic photo identification, there’s no issue. Apparently the issue lies with the lazy, apathetic, or chronically stupid and I’m not real keen on those people voting anyhow. Anyone of any color who votes should have a basic understanding and knowledge of both civics and current issues. Otherwise, do the country a favor and stay home.
    BTW, you had to re-register in the county because your name would be added to the new precinct list and removed from the old in order to ensure that you don’t vote twice in one election.
    Oh, wait. . ..

  23. Rich

    I think people color understand civics quite well in this country. They seem to understand that the white majority has spent most of our nation’s history enslaving, brutalizing, torturing, disenfranchising, and disrespecting them.
    The real problem is the white mythology that passes for US history in many of our schools dominated by the majority culture.

  24. EMELKS

    If you hover your cursor over the time field at the bottom right of your screen, you’ll notice that the date is March 1, 2009. This isn’t 1865, or even 1955. Get with the now.
    There’s something terribly wrong with you. Either you’re incapable of putting thought to text or you really believe the lunacy above. Either way, one cannot converse with someone who can’t express reality or is delusional.
    Thanks for the laugh, though.

  25. T

    You forgot to add “electing the most powerful person in the world” to your list of what the white majority has done for people of color.
    Most public schools in the Columbia area do not have a white majority either – my daughter’s school is composed of about 30% white students. Her principal is African American as well.
    I’m afraid that your brand of hyperbole is going to cause a backlash from liberal whites; I know I’m ready to move beyond it.

  26. Kir

    If we want to discuss this issue, we should address the issue comprehensively including the type of voting machines used. I have also seen polling sites in minority areas where there were too few machines and very, very long lines. Move the voting to Saturday where everyone can truly have a chance to vote and install voting machines that are simple to follow and produce a written record. Do these things as well and I can easily go along with the picture ID requirement.

  27. Rich

    I am NOT engaging in hyperbole when I point out that most of American history has been a dismal record of oppression for this country’s minorities.
    I can point to a flood of recent scholarship (all available at or at your local bookstore) documenting the depredations of white people against people of color, as well as linguistic and religious minorities.
    These are facts. Can you blame black people for distrusting the intentions of the white majority, particularly when even those who consider themselves to be liberal among them refuse to face their history?? We expect the Germans, the Japanese, and the Russians to face theirs? Why do we have such a problem taking our own medicine?
    Yes, we have made considerable progress. The circle of freedom in this country has definitely widened. But it is a fact that voter registration became a significant franchise management procedure widely adopted throughout the country.
    Just as Southern whites discovered that they could get around the 15th amendment with literacy tests, poll taxes, and other elements of voter registration, northern whites discovered that this procedure was quite useful in limiting the Catholic vote.
    Now people accept the myth that voter registration helps prevent fraud. How does it do that when it effectively restricts the franchise?
    I pose the question again: if in the European Union people are automatically registered to vote at birth when they receive their ID card (not that they can vote before they receive legal majority), why can’t we go to a high-tech system of National Identification Cards that would do it all: citizenship, basic data, voter registration, essential info for police, and, when the citizen is eligible, the privilege of driving. We could even put essential medical records on the card.
    With such an ID card, one could literally vote in California on election day for candidates back in Richland County. Secure governmental accounts would assure that voting would not be duplicative.
    Both major parties could monitor the process on a bipartisan basis. We could also promise people that voting would not lead to a jury summons or a knock on the door by police to execute outstanding warrants.
    Voting is an absolute constitutional right. Even felons in prison should have their right to vote preserved if only to stress the rehabilitative function of imprisonment–something that is too often lost in our punitive criminal justice system that is clogged with drug offenses.
    I know that all of the above must sound radical, but the Founders believed that we were all endowed by the “Creator” (whoever he or she is!) with certain inalienable rights. Logically, what follows is that government may not restrict those rights except for cause arrived at by due process.
    Of course, a widened franchise would inevitably benefit whatever liberal, social democratic party is seeking office. People in despair, people without hope, people who just want a square deal are going to vote in droves for such a party.
    Parties that subscribe to the myth that their members have what they have, not through privilege, but through their own hard work clearly do not want a broad franchise.
    A lot of white people do not realize the privilege into which they were born–the assumption that they would succeed, that their culture is valued by society, and the preparation in youth for a blessed future.
    A lot of our minority kids (including poor whites, by the way) just don’t have the advantages that exist in many white middle class families.
    Folks, we can either bring people into the process, build schools, create jobs, and provide a social safety net–or we can build prisons.
    In case you hadn’t noticed, our demographics are changing. The country will be only 46% white by 2050. Either we include everybody in the commonwealth, or we face a potentially revolutionary situation by mid-century. Rather than fighting a war abroad, our military could end up doing what other military establishments do south of the border: shooting at their own desperate people.
    And that would be just awful. Let’s Barack Obama a chance to succeed in order to assure our future.

  28. Lee Muller

    Democrats only support voting rights for felons because so many Democrats are felons. As many as one third of some Democrat precincts are convicted felons.
    Barack Obama worked for ACORN, the voter fraud organization. Obama was elected by voter fraud.

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