Coca-Cola caves to progressive boycott threat over indirect support for voter ID laws

It’s a perennial clash between conservatives and progressives: Do voter ID laws represent a legitimate attempt to curb voter fraud or do they represent a sinister attempt to disenfranchise minority voters?

Progressives strongly maintain the latter — and they stand ready to mobilize against any attempts to institute voter ID laws. The American Legislative Exchange Council supports such laws, and companies like Coca-Cola, Inc., and Walmart Stores, Inc., are affiliated with ALEC. The progressive group Color for Change threatened to boycott Coca-Cola over its support for ALEC — and, within five hours, Coke had withdrawn its support for the conservative legislators’ group.

The Center for American Progress blog ThinkProgress touted the victory. It’s only a victory, though, if their arguments against voter ID laws are sound. CAP maintains that voter fraud is actually quite rare — and research from the Brennan Center for Justice appears to back up that claim. According to Brennan, it is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls. James O’Keefe’s video to support voter ID laws proves that election officials probably wouldn’t catch such impersonations — but it doesn’t prove that those impersonations are frequent.

When conservatives speak of “voter fraud,” though, we’re talking about more than just outright impersonation attempts. It would probably be more accurate of us to use the term “election fraud” because we’re also talking about forged signatures on primary ballots, faked absentee ballots, voter intimidation efforts and, yes, the sort of ignorance that leads ineligible voters — convicted felons, for example, or illegal immigrants — to think themselves eligible, cast votes and have their votes counted. Election fraud is still widespread — and still affecting the outcome of votes in unfair ways. Would voter ID laws correct all of the problems in the system? No, but that’s why reformers usually wish to combine voter ID laws with other measures to ensure the fairest possible elections for all.

Yes, voter ID laws would make it more difficult for eligible voters without a government ID to vote — but shouldn’t we work to correct the problem that some eligible voters somehow don’t have any form of government identification rather than attack the ID laws themselves? Nobody wants to disenfranchise anybody — except maybe the dead.