Bill Clinton on voter ID: Why not solve the problem by putting a photo on every Social Security card?

After years of lefty rhetoric about how even the smallest ID requirement at the polls is some sort of pogrom against minority voters and the poor, I … did not see this coming.

But maybe I should have. Per some polls, support for voter ID reaches 80+ percent. Maybe Bill’s already thinking about purple states in 2016.

With 34 states now requiring some form of identification at the polls, former president Bill Clinton and civil rights leader Andrew Young on Wednesday endorsed the idea of adding photos to Social Security cards as a way to prevent voter suppression…

Clinton and Young, a former mayor of Atlanta, expressed concern that the voter ID laws could discourage poor and minority voters from showing up at the polls, which would circumvent the intent of the Voting Rights Act.

“I’m not against photo identification, but only as long as the cards are free and easily accessible. Providing eligible voters the ability to obtain a photo on a Social Security card eliminates any genuine concern,” Young said. He called on Obama to issue an executive order making such photos available.

Clinton did not go so far as to urge executive action. However, he said, putting photos on Social Security cards would represent “a way forward that eliminates error,” without having to “paralyze and divide a country with significant challenges.”

Help me figure this out. Traditionally, the argument against voter ID is that it puts the poor at a disadvantage by making them spend money they don’t have. Even if the ID itself is free, as it is in some states, it costs money to collect the supporting documents for it, like an official birth certificate. Except that … you also need supporting documents proving your age, citizenship, and identity to obtain a Social Security card. To prove the first two, they ask for a birth certificate. To prove identity, “Social Security will ask to see a U.S. driver’s license, state-issued nondriver identification card or U.S. passport,” although certain other forms of ID might be accepted if those are absent. And SSA emphasizes that all documents must be original or certified copies; photocopies won’t cut it. All of which is to say, how is a Social Security card less burdensome for a voter to obtain than a state-issued ID would be? If anything, it’s more of a pain for the feds since it would require issuing two separate SSA cards — one, presumably without a photo, when you’re a child and can’t vote, and then another with a photo when you turn 18 and can.

The point here, I guess, is to leverage the ubiquity of Social Security. If everyone, including the poor, is already bearing the cost of registering for a number and getting a card, you might as well add a photo and take care of their voter ID too. If it’s unfair to make them bear a burden at the polls, though, why ask them to bear one to produce documents for SSA? Why shouldn’t photocopies of a birth certificate suffice as proof of identity? This has always been the main objection to voter ID — it seems capricious to demand proof of ID for so many things in life, including participation in a protest of voter ID laws, and then wave people through on election day without one. If obtaining photo ID would make the poor’s lives easier in various ways, not just in voting, then naturally you’d want to maximize the incentive for them to do so. That’s a virtue of Clinton’s proposal. Unlike lots of lefties, he sees value in encouraging people have at least one basic form of photo ID.

Exit question: Will righties balk at this because Social Security is federally administered, though? I saw some grumbles in Headlines about this being a de facto national ID card, in which case, no thanks.

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