This voter ID thing is just never, ever going to end, is it? (Please tell me I’m wrong.)

First, for those of you who are new to this blog (and you’re out there, I know, going by my growing readership numbers), I have no truck with either of the two major political parties. And even less with the minor parties that you’ve heard of (the Libertarian Party, for instance, makes the Dems and Repubs look like the soul of reasonableness. Or used to. You can count on less and less, these days).

So when you see me mock a fund-raising press release from the Democrats, do not assume that I’m a Republican. And when I criticize Nikki Haley’s latest madness on Voter ID, do not assume that I’m a Democrat (not that you would, in her case, since she infuriates so many Republicans — although on that issue, they are perfectly in sync with her). When you do those thing, you tick me off, of course — which is why some of you do it on purpose, to get a rise. But more to the point, you find yourself misunderstanding, and following a path that will cause you to to fail to follow other things that you read here.

So it is that, after marveling at the foolish sequence of statements and actions into which her advocacy of Voter ID has led our governess, I now complain at having received yet another communication from the Democrats on the same subject.

As I’ve said over and over, this is an issue that exists purely as something for Democrats and Republicans to fight over. It has no bearing on reality. There are no elections to point to in which significant amounts of fraud occurred, nor elections in which lots of people who followed basic procedures were denied the opportunity to vote. This issue will not affect the outcomes of elections.

But… the Democrats and Republicans believe it will, and that the effect will be manifest along partisan lines. They both believe that it will keep poor black people (and other demographic groups sharing certain characteristics) from voting. The Republicans welcome that anticipated development; the Democrats fear it.

And because of that, day, weeks, even years of legislative time has been wasted on “debate” over this non-issue. It really ticks off the Democrats and Republicans when I say this, because they are both PASSIONATELY devoted to the principles they see at stake — and even more so to the electoral advantage they see as being at stake. You will see a great deal of solemn, deadly serious pronouncements on this subject.

I have lamented every moment wasted on this subject that could have been spent on something else, so I wanted it either to pass or be decisively defeated, so we could move on. Eventually, it passed in South Carolina, and the governor eagerly signed it, and Republicans hailed it as the greatest thing ever, and Democrats wailed and rent their garments, or whatever the modern equivalent is.

For my part, I was glad that it was over. Oh, foolish optimism! Because of course, Republicans are doing all sorts of foolish things to try to ameliorate the perceived harm they have done, and Democrats are getting more and more indignant as days go by, such as in this release I got today:

My Fellow South Carolinians,

My first political memory is sitting on the floor in front of the television watching the results of the 1984 Presidential election with my grandfather. I asked him hundreds of questions about the candidates, the White House, and past Presidents, and in his loving way, my grandfather  attempted to answer each question to the best of his abilities.

Society would have classified my grandfather  as a simple but  hard-working man, a product of the segregated south.  He didn’t have much money, he didn’t have much education, and he didn’t have a fancy job. But what he had and cherished was his dignity, his family, and his right to vote.  It was a right that he didn’t always have — and sometimes didn’t even exercise. Nonetheless he felt it was a right that could not and would not be taken away from him.

The South Carolina Voter ID bill that was passed with GOP support and signed into law by Governor Haley, disenfranchised more than 180,000 South Carolina citizens, and if my grandfather was still alive it would have disenfranchised him as well (after having his leg amputated he no longer had a government issued Driver’s license).

Thanks to the efforts of the Democratic members of the Senate and House, the SC Progressive Network and others to oppose the bill on the grounds that it discriminates against minorities and seniors, the Department of Justice is asking for more information about the legislation.

As Americans, not as Democrats, nor as Republicans, but as Americans, we must keep the pressure on the DOJ, in the 60-day window we have to make sure the SC Voter ID bill is finally struck down.  This bill not only affects our state but others across this nation, who are facing the same efforts to suppress voter participation….

And so on. Pretty moving, passionate stuff, huh? (Although I wish he hadn’t spoken of the extremely recent year of 1984 as though it were olden times, sitting at his grandpa’s knee. I was in my 30s and had already had three kids of my own then.) Yeah, this stuff just isn’t going away.

It’s not that I don’t see merit in what the Dems are complaining about. While I don’t think the new law imposes a significant burden (anyone can find a ride to the DMV SOMEtime during the two-year stretch between elections), I do find the motives of the Republicans off-putting.

Off-putting, but not as horrible as the Democrats think. Because I can see merit in the GOP position to this extent: I don’t believe “easier” is necessarily a good goal when it comes to voting. That runs against something deep in the soul of a Democrat, but there it is. I think this country is full of people — left, right, and middle — who don’t take voting seriously enough. This is why I oppose early voting, and virtual voting, and just about anything other than heading down to the polls and standing in line with all your neighbors on Election Day, being a part of something you are all doing together as citizens. I believe you should have to take some trouble to do it. Not unreasonable amounts of trouble, just some.

We’re expected to deplore low turnout, and I used to dutifully do so. But then I thought, and quit deploring it quite so vehemently. Because when I look at some of the horrible decisions that voters have made because they didn’t think hard enough, and I think of all those people who didn’t care enough even to take the trouble to vote, the last thing we need is to induce those apathetic souls to come out and add their thoughtless votes to the total. We don’t need more voters; we need better votes.

I digress. Back to the topic: Have Voter ID or don’t have it. But let’s not talk about it any more…

28 thoughts on “This voter ID thing is just never, ever going to end, is it? (Please tell me I’m wrong.)

  1. `Kathryn Fenner

    “nor elections in which lots of people who followed basic procedures were denied the opportunity to vote. ‘

    Yet. The new exclusionary measures haven’t taken effect.

    Besides, the standard for the RIGHT to vote isn’t whether “lots of people” are excluded. No one should be excluded.

    and if you don’t want to talk about it any more, just stop posting about it….click your shoes together three times…

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  2. Brad

    Excuse me; I misspoke. I meant, I don’t want to HEAR about it any more.

    And I object to the “single person being excluded” standard. There are always going to be mixups with someone having a flat tire or getting on the wrong bus and not getting there on time, or showing up at the wrong precinct, and not getting to the right one on time, or being able to establish whether they are who they say they are…

    Because excuse me if I’m wrong, but haven’t we always been expected to prove our identity to SOME extent? The argument here is whether requiring a photo ID is reasonable or not. Seems to me pretty reasonable, if you need to go another step up in the process. I just don’t think we DO need to go that extra step.

    And I find the hollering of both sides that if they don’t get their way it’s a HORRIBLE INJUSTICE rather tiresome.

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  3. Tim

    How about a DNA test? Then a fingerprint and a person to vouch that you are who you say you are. Brad I think you are trying real hard to be reasonable and treat each side as irrational, when the old system wasn’t broken in the first place. One side made a HUGE big deal about a problem that didn’t exist and has now created a massively dumb boondoggle. And 180,000 is not an inconsequential number. Its 3 percent of the population. True, I can’t think of a single election that was decided by less than 3 percentage points,…, oh, wait…

    And you are not even going to get a free ride to get your id card, if you can’t walk,…

    http://www.thestate.com/2011/09/02/1956299/advocates-for-the-disabled-appalled.html

    Those non-ambulatory people eat up too many resources as it is.

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  4. Brad

    No, the only thing I’m trying “real hard” to do is to explain something that seems obvious to me, but seems counterintuitive to most people, since they are in the habit of thinking the way the parties do.

    And we would not have a DNA test or stop for fingerprinting because they would be unreasonable, and impractical. They would slow down the voting process too much. Showing a voter ID would not. You need to show something, so it might as well be that. And whatever trouble the tiny number of people who don’t already possess such ID have to go to to get such ID would not take place on Election Day, so it would not slow down the voting process.

    As I say, I don’t see it as an unreasonable requirement. At the same time, I don’t see it as necessary. So I think the heat that both sides generate over the question is stupid, and harmful.

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  5. Brad

    One reason they get so passionate is that this issue goes to the essence of each party’s nature and core beliefs. Which to the parties makes talking about this, arguing and fighting about it, seem noble and fine. I get that.

    But for me, it just reminds me of why I despise the parties so much. I see the unseemly, selfish sides of their argument — each side sees electoral advantage for itself in its position. And I wouldn’t give 2 cents for either party to win an election.

    It also speaks to the ideological absolutism that I see in each of the parties (and especially in minor parties, such as the Libertarians). Republicans think that we have to do to ever-greater efforts to make sure that not ONE instance of fraud ever occurs.

    Democrats want to make sure that, as Kathryn suggested, not ONE voter is denied the opportunity to vote on a given occasion.

    Me, I don’t think you can have a perfect system. Sometimes, a vote is going to fall through the cracks. That’s not good, but it’s going to happen. No system we come up with is going to perfectly prevent it. For instance, name any method of voting, and I can point out flaws in it.

    The Republicans and Democrats are each, in their own ways, trying to make the system perfect. Each of them has good reasons for what they are doing (or at least, the reasons they openly avow are good). But each of them needs to lighten up, and not let the perfect be the enemy of the reasonable.

    They won’t do that, though. Each sees the less noble reasons, the issue of which of them wins elections, as too important.

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  6. `Kathryn Fenner

    Look, stuff happens to preclude people from voting. It just shouldn’t be governmental action. Especially governmental action designed to do just that: exclude people who otherwise have the right to vote from voting. Especially when the largest class of those likely to be excluded is the same class of people previously excluded: blacks. Especially when the party pushing the exclusionary tactic is the party of the Southern Strategy.

    Did you not read the excellent articles in The State about how it is extremely burdensome for certain people–older blacks who were not born in a hospital–and I wonder what party they are likely to vote for–to get a photo ID?

    Sure, it isn’t hard for a privileged person like you or me to get a photo ID, or pretty much anyone who’s going to vote Republican, but voting isn’t a privilege.

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  7. Brad

    I understand fully that the reasons you just stated are the reasons you get stirred up about it. And I believe you adhere to the more admirable reasons for your position.

    But you know what? I suspect there are also sincere Republicans who get all worked up and indignant over the idea that someone votes who does not have the right to do so. And I fully understand why they find it ridiculous for anyone to say they can’t get a picture ID.

    And yep, I get it (even if the Republicans don’t) that there might be a very few really old people who can’t obtain a birth certificate or whatever. Even though I find it hard to understand how they got to be old without being able to do the basic paperwork that you have to do at some point in your life.

    If they’re really old, they’d have to be female, or have been 4F, or otherwise they’d have served in the military — unless they’re really, REALLY old and got to be too old for the draft before was reinstituted in 1940. (Because surely, surely we could let the DMV regard discharge papers as adequate identification.) Since the maximum draft age then was 45, they would have to be… 116.

    This is interesting, when you start trying to break it down into parts.

    I’d like to see someone — someone with no emotional ax in this — quantify how many people are in a situation in which they can’t obtain ID, and how that happened. And then I’d like to see a detailed study on how they coped with that for so long.

    Maybe instead of providing free rides, Nikki Haley could set up a new bureaucracy to do all that, and then (the practical part) find ways for those people to obtain ID. Seems doable to me.

    It also seems like an awful lot of unnecessary trouble, which is why, while I don’t consider it all that onerous a requirement, I could certainly do without it.

    The ultimate reason hearing about this REALLY makes me angry is that I don’t think it’s about either the (negligible) number of cases of fraud, or the (also negligible) number of people who canNOT (which I distinguish from, “find it inconvenient”) obtain ID.

    I think for both parties, it’s about beating the other side. As usual.

    I promise you, the UnParty will not waste time on stuff like this.

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  8. `Kathryn Fenner

    Wasn’t it Dawn Hinshaw who did the story…doesn’t strike me as an ax grinder…there were plenty of very specific details on how you could get by w/o a birth certificate.

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  9. Steven Davis

    “Did you not read the excellent articles in The State about how it is extremely burdensome for certain people–older blacks who were not born in a hospital–and I wonder what party they are likely to vote for–to get a photo ID?”

    How do these same people cash a social security check without a picture ID? What do they use for ID when they go to see a doctor or to the ER? I find it hard to believe that these same people who can get to the grocery store, post office, doctor’s office, etc… can’t get to the DMV to pick up their free state issued ID. Maybe the state should tell them they’ll get a nice new $20 bill with their free ID, then I bet there’d be a line out the door.

    I’m still confused as to who these “Republicans” are in this state. The liberals on one hand want us to believe their the privileged elite and on the other hand they want you to believe their the mouth breathing, trailer dwellers who worship NASCAR and get excited when the new model of tow truck hits the showroom floor. Make up your mind, are Republicans the rich or the poor.

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  10. Stan Dubinsky

    The biggest problem we have in the area of voting is NOT verifying the identity of the voters, but in verifying the RESULTS of elections with electronic voting machines that use proprietary software, and do not produce any count that can be checked independently of the machine.

    If ANY of the parties were really interested in accurate results, they would be all over this. As things stand, the electronic machines that SC uses have been implicated in hundreds, if not thousands, of missing or overcounted votes.

    We are unlikely to actually see any interest in this issue though, because it doesn’t yield any political, polemical capital, and because millions of dollars exchanged hands in getting our state burdened with these machines, and some of those hands are likely to be loath to have too much light on this matter.

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  11. Scout

    The position that getting an ID is not hard or that living a long life without certain documents would be very difficult makes a lot of assumptions. I don’t know exactly how but I am not so arrogant as to assume that if I can’t conceive it, it couldn’t be true. It is definately true that living at different socioeconomic levels and in different cultural groups each has its own set of norms. If it is the norm in a certain community to not have an ID and the stores in that community want business, I’m thinking they’ll probably find a way to cash checks. I don’t know the details of how people without IDs get by in every facet of their life, but what bothers me is when people just presume that it could not be possible for someone else based on their own circumstances.

    I guess you have to work in a rural poor area to really realize what a different world it can be.

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  12. Brad Warthen

    What beggars belief for most of us is that it would be impossible for suburbanites to get by without documentation. You can’t even get a job. After 24 years with the same company, I was shocked to learn I had to prove my citizenship to start work. And I needed my Social Security card, which I had lost 35 years earlier, to sign up for unemployment before that.

    Suggesting there’s a class of people who aren’t subjected to this sounds like science fiction to the middle class. It’s like the proles in 1984, who were totally outside the system, and didn’t have to have telescreens in their homes.

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  13. KP

    I’d be interested to know how many people lack any documentation, but I bet there are plenty who lack the right documentation. From The State:

    “The new law requires voters to present one of the four IDs at the polls in order to cast a vote: a valid S.C. driver’s license, a passport, a military ID or a photo ID card issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles.”

    So. You can’t vote if you have a social security card, proof of residency in South Carolina, and a valid photo ID issued by another state, unless you have travelled abroad, enlisted in the military, or can locate your original birth certificate and take it to the SC DMV to get a photo ID. Of course, you CAN cash a social security check, get a job, or do just about anything else you want with a social security number, proof of residency, and a valid photo ID, wherever it’s from.

    I have been on the fence about this issue, but I can see how that would be difficult for many people, and it’s unnecessary for purposes of voting.

    What I don’t see is why you allow comments like this: “I find it hard to believe that these same people who can get to the grocery store, post office, doctor’s office, etc… can’t get to the DMV to pick up their free state issued ID. Maybe the state should tell them they’ll get a nice new $20 bill with their free ID, then I bet there’d be a line out the door.”

    Racist, offensive, totally inappropriate, and clueless.

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  14. `Kathryn Fenner

    Privilege denying runs deep.

    While I readily acknowledge that I have benefited greatly from privilege, and indeed, just got back from a trip overseas on my fourth or fifth passport, even my own brother hasn’t left the continent and, I believe, does not have a passport. My parents-in-law do not now, nor have they ever had a credit card–although as Ivy League/Seven Sisters graduates, it’s more that they are out of it than that they do not have privilege.

    The fact that we are all reading this on our own computers puts us in a privileged class.

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  15. Brad

    KP, you point out a dilemma in enforcing my civility policy. If I remove EVERY offensive comment by a given person, the rest of you may fail to understand his worldview, and our discussion will be based upon mistaken assumptions. So occasionally, I let one through…

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  16. Scout

    I do understand that it is hard to believe. But since working in Ridge Spring for 15 years I have come to realize that almost every stereotype has some basis in reality, and things that would have been inconceivable to me before are no longer out of the question based on some things I’ve encountered. That saying about walking a mile in someone’s shoes seems appropriate. I think Atticus Finch said something like that too which is one reason I like that movie.

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  17. bud

    There are no elections to point to in which significant amounts of fraud occurred, nor elections in which lots of people who followed basic procedures were denied the opportunity to vote. This issue will not affect the outcomes of elections.
    -Brad

    I quit reading the rest of Brad’s post after this comment. The 2000 election was decided by voter disenfranchisment. Any thoughts, evidence, opinions, analysis or evaluation that suggests otherwise is pure BS and not worthy of reading. May as well argue for the flatness of the earth.

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  18. bud

    While it is arguable that voter disenfranchisement is more of a problem than voter fraud I would maintain that the far, far bigger problem is the electoral college. That’s what really has the potential for the most harm. Otherwise the close vote in Florida would not have mattered in 2000.

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  19. Steven Davis

    “What I don’t see is why you allow comments like this: “I find it hard to believe that these same people who can get to the grocery store, post office, doctor’s office, etc… can’t get to the DMV to pick up their free state issued ID. Maybe the state should tell them they’ll get a nice new $20 bill with their free ID, then I bet there’d be a line out the door.”

    Racist, offensive, totally inappropriate, and clueless.”

    You forgot to mention “100% correct”. Where in what I wrote did “racist” come into play? Am I to assume that your calling me a racist that only minorities are going to be affected by this law? If you believe otherwise, I’m not the one… as you called me “clueless”.

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  20. Brad

    I vote that we not let Kathryn vote, on account of her not having a smartphone.

    I mean, as long as we’re at it, right?

    Maybe I should make that a key plank of the UnParty.

    Lots of smiley faces at this point…

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  21. `Kathryn Fenner

    My vote is merely salutary in this backwards state, anyway. I’m not entirely sure why I bother, outside of local elections. It never seems to make a difference!

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  22. Norm Ivey

    I agree with you, Brad, that this is an issue that nothing needed to be done about–that it was just a point to argue. Unfortunately, something was done about it, and citizens who were able to vote no longer can. Of the four things listed as possible sources of ID, I have only one. I can easily imagine not having a driver’s license if my circumstances did not require me to drive.

    To Kathryn’s point, we tend to see the world through whichever set of eyes we’re born with. If those eyes are middle class privilege, then we believe that most people can function just as we do, and that those who do not must choose not to. My experience as a teacher has taught me that there are many people–more than we would like to admit, I think–who live day in and day out in poverty, even in the suburbs of Columbia. I have had homeless students in my class. I have an extraordinary number of students who receive free breakfast and lunch. These people live lives I can’t imagine, and I try to remind myself that there but for the Grace of God, go I.

    This website has an intriguing list of “Indicators of Poverty”. The entire article is interesting, but it’s the list that makes the point.

    http://catholicmoraltheology.com/uncovering-the-hidden-rules-of-poverty/

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  23. Steven Davis

    I’m sure if Kathryn goes down to DSS they’ll give her a SmartPhone. The homeless people hanging out around the library and state library don’t seem to have any problem getting one.

    I wonder if they had to show an ID???

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  24. `Kathryn Fenner

    If I were homeless, I might well have a smartphone–prepaid, of course. It would be a very cheap way to stay connected with the world, especially employers! I have a real computer and a real house, with real WiFi, so I don’t need a smartphone.

    If you absolutely HAVE to reach me when I’m not home, you can phone me. My little cellphone goes in a pocket easily. Otherwise, you need to reconsider your priorities!

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  25. Bart

    “I quit reading the rest of Brad’s post after this comment. The 2000 election was decided by voter disenfranchisment. Any thoughts, evidence, opinions, analysis or evaluation that suggests otherwise is pure BS and not worthy of reading. May as well argue for the flatness of the earth.”

    -bud

    This sums it up in a short paragraph. When a differing opinion based on evidence, anecdotal, factual, or otherwise is presented and immediately, the person reading it considers it BS and stops reading or listening because it doesn’t square with what he or she is believes is the only truth, what we are witnessing is the epitome’ of extremism.

    When an extremist tells someone he or she is full of BS, the conversation immediately comes to a halt and neither side advances nor convinces the other side to consider another option.

    If the truth be known, disenfranchisement, or the perception of it, is involved in almost every election held when more than 50 people, an arbitrary number, are involved in the proceedings. Someone in the count will argue he or she was not treated fairly or the requirements for he or she voting were unfairly enforced because someone didn’t agree with his or her political affiliation.

    Does it still happen? Absolutely. And, on both sides. The practice is not proprietary for Republicans or Democrats. The missing information is just how pervasive is it and to what degree does it impact an election.

    I guess the debate over the 2000 election will continue until the devil puts on ice skates and wins a gold medal for figure skating.

    Reply

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