Why demonize Voter ID policies?
posted at 10:20 am on August 20, 2012 by Libby Sternberg
Democrats oppose Voter ID laws because they want to steal elections.
That’s a scurrilous charge, isn’t it? Democrats would protest that their opposition to Voter ID laws is motivated not by base intentions but by the noble desire to ensure that certain populations not be denied access to the vote.
Why should we believe them? Many of them certainly don’t believe that Republicans who support Voter ID laws are anything but malevolently motivated. To the folks at places like Moveon.org, Voter ID laws are but one part of a massive racist voter suppression scheme perpetrated by evil conservatives, funded by the evilest of them all, the Koch Brothers.
So, the next time the hard left and their willing sheep start bleating about “voter suppression,” why shouldn’t those on the right start talking about liberals’ desire to block Voter ID initiatives because liberals really just want to make it easier to “steal elections”?
Maybe one of the reasons liberals would rather discuss alleged motivations instead of the actual policy is because Voter ID programs are supported by a vast majority of Americans. According to a July Washington Post poll nearly three-quarters of respondents believe one should have to show ID to vote.
With poll numbers like those, of course Voter ID opponents would rather make this a debate about “suppression” and “racism.” Nobody likes a racist, after all, so they easily win that fake argument, while they lose the one on the policy itself.
Some reasonable observations, however, explain the strong support for Voter ID:
Most Americans understand that when you engage in serious activities, you are required to show proof that you are who you say you are.
Your bank, for example, might ask for ID even when you’re making a deposit into your own account.
And government offices (even ones fighting Voter ID laws in the courts) ask for ID before allowing just anyone to come on the premises.
Americans confront on a daily basis the need for proof of ID, and they understand why it’s important.
They also know how little is required of them when they walk into a polling place. In most places, they’re just asked to give their name.
Surely it has crossed their minds how easy it would be for a less-than-altruistic individual to abuse that level of public trust. They don’t need to watch James O’Keefe videos to understand this on a visceral level. They know, perhaps also on a gut level, how easy it is for people caught up in the passion of the moment—zealously supporting a candidate, for example—to rationalize away bad behavior in service of a perceived “common good.”
In short, Americans know that how clean an election is just might tilt the outcome.
But opponents of these laws say Voter ID is a solution in search of a problem, since voter fraud is so low in the U.S.
Voter fraud is real, and it can swing a close election in some districts. What might not be so real, however, is the alleged disenfranchisement of voters due to Voter ID laws.
Recently, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Judge Simpson refused to grant an injunction to plaintiffs seeking to block Pennsylvania’s new Voter ID law. In his ruling, Judge Simpson wrote that he didn’t find credible the studies of a university professor testifying for the plaintiffs, due to “oversampling; post-stratification weighting…and overarching design for ‘eligible’ voters as opposed to ‘registered’ voters.” Judge Simpson also “had doubts about the survey execution: response rate; and timing.” The judge specifically “rejected Petitioners attempts to inflate the numbers (percent of registered voters without ID).”
Before opponents dismiss Judge Simpson as a partisan, it should be noted that he also blocked Republicans’ attempts to thwart ACORN voter registration work back in 2008.
Most Americans won’t read Judge Simpson’s ruling, but they don’t need to in order to understand these common sense ideas:
- It’s important to show proof of identity for serious transactions.
- Close elections in the past demonstrate how important it is to ensure clean elections, and
- Sometimes well-intentioned partisans might cross the line because of their zeal.
Voter ID opponents can continue to question supporters’ motives, but that tactic does nothing to advance the legitimate discussion of ways to ensure clean elections. So the next time Voter ID debates turn to talk of voter suppression, ask why opponents are so disinterested in clean elections. If motivation is the topic and not the policy itself, such a question is fair game.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist.