Old and busted: Rigging elections
New hotness: Rigging elections by preventing other people from rigging elections

This seems to be the central theme of E.J. Dionne’s latest polemic against election reform laws currently being enacted around the country. Of course these efforts at “voter suppression” are cleverly disguised and, to be sure, they aren’t taking place everywhere. Just where conservatives are in power.

An attack on the right to vote is underway across the country through laws designed to make it more difficult to cast a ballot. If this were happening in an emerging democracy, we’d condemn it as election-rigging. But it’s happening here, so there’s barely a whimper.

The laws are being passed in the name of preventing “voter fraud.” But study after study has shown that fraud by voters is not a major problem — and is less of a problem than how hard many states make it for people to vote in the first place.

Right off the bat here, did you catch his initial premise? Voter fraud really isn’t much of a problem, you see, and it’s clearly nothing to be concerned about at all if it happens to benefit the particular party and ideology you support. So what types of laws are being put in place which will be robbing our children of their cherished right to participate in the democratic process?

The laws in question include requiring voter identification cards at the polls, limiting the time of early voting, ending same-day registration and making it difficult for groups to register new voters.

Oh, boy. As if we all have enough hours in the day for these arguments.

Voter ID: How anyone mounts an argument against poll workers being able – required, actually – to see some proof that the voter in question is actually who he or she says they are and later being able to ensure that they only voted once and in the correct races is beyond me. On one minor part of this issue, though, I will actually agree with Dionne. If you create a law requiring a specific, state issued voter ID card (as opposed to other valid forms of ID most people are likely to have) then that card should be supplied for free to the voter. This avoids issues with the 24th amendment. Beyond that, presenting I.D. shouldn’t be an issue for any legal American citizen who is entitled to vote. Dionne also complains that, in Texas, “the law allows concealed handgun licenses as identification but not student IDs.” Here’s a free hint: which one of those do you think requires more stringent ID and background checks to obtain and which is more easily faked?

Limitations on early voting: I’m all for flexible voting structures which provide the best opportunity for all legitimate voters to cast their ballots. This is particularly true for our military and for travellers who cast their votes remotely. Long hours when the polls are open are also good to allow workers of all shifts a chance to make their voices heard. But there have to be reasonable limits. Things change and you don’t want to be voting in an election that is still months away when you may find yourself with voter’s remorse later on. (What if you vote for a guy who suddenly shows up tweeting pictures of his junk to strangers? You might want to change your mind.)

Registration issues: Same day registration has caused far more headaches than it has solved. Overburdened poll workers have enough on their plates already every November without having to deal with this. And the fact is, voting is a serious responsibility in addition to being a point of pride. If you’re capable of voting then you’re smart enough to know that an election is coming well in advance. Just like registering or insuring your car, paying your taxes or your mortgage or making an appointment to have your teeth cleaned, it’s something you should be able to plan in advance. Crying about not being able to vote because you only just decided to do it on the day of the election isn’t a very compelling argument to me. And as for “groups registering people to vote,” I’m not buying it. It is each voter’s responsibility to make the effort to get registered. And it’s not like you don’t get enough chances or “group participation.” Every year at various festivals in our district we set up tents with huge signs saying “REGISTER HERE TO VOTE!” and we supply the forms to people too busy or lazy to go down and do it themselves. It’s not a hurdle. Further, these “groups” are frequently very partisan in nature and the temptation for monkey business in submitting valid forms simply outweighs the added convenience.

In the end, Dionne’s major complaint is that election reform laws disproportionately affect minorities and the young. It’s a rather bold statement and I’d like to see some supporting evidence that these groups are being hindered from registering. They may, in fact, not register in the same numbers as, for example, people above retirement age. But it’s not for lack of opportunity. It’s from lack of interest is my guess.