Solving the Voter I.D. Controversy in 500 Words or Less
I’ll keep this one short, because we’re looking at one of the simplest issues ever to cause mass consternation across the republic. I know we don’t need to resort to fisticuffs, because the solution is so self-evident (except, apparently, to all the combatants on either side). Let’s see if you agree.
It seems the individual states can decide how much (if any) identification their aspiring voters must flash when they go to the polls. That’s fine… it helps prevent voter fraud. As of this writing, nine states require a photo I.D. and six other states “request” it. (Sort of like those museums that “suggest” a $15 “donation” at the door.)
Most of us already count a photo I.D. among our possessions because most of us have state-issued driver’s licenses. But some 11 percent of voting-age Americans don’t. That number soars to 25 percent among African Americans and 16 percent among Hispanics… presumably because impoverished urbanites tend to forgo car ownership in favor of public transportation. So naturally the nation’s minority advocates are howling about a Republican plot to keep people of color from casting their preponderantly Democratic votes.
I can understand their apprehensions: shades of Jim Crow, the poll tax and all that. But it’s really not a nefarious scheme to disenfranchise left-leaning minorities. You see, the photo I.D. requirement also affects senior citizens, the majority of whom are certifiably white and Republican. Some 18% of golden-agers lack the compulsory card. I’d also guess that a healthy swatch of the big-city yuppie population goes carless (and cardless) as well, because the cost of parking is positively prohibitive in the fashionable downtown districts of our larger metropoli.
So no, it’s not a matter of race or even political finagling; it’s just another example of government obtuseness at the state level. If you’re going to require photo I.D.s at the voting booth, then you need to ISSUE photo I.D.s to all the eligible voters in your state. We’re not talking brain surgery here. It’s the only fair solution, and everyone seems to be overlooking it because it’s so confoundedly simple.
Ah, but where will all those non-driving minorities, seniors and yuppies find a place to have their official photos taken? Easy. It’s called the motor vehicle bureau. Most big cities have several of them, and anyone can reach them via public transportation.
If a state is adamant about requiring photo I.D.s on Election Day, let them issue photo I.D.s through the motor vehicle bureaus. Set up two lines: one for voters who drive, one for voters who don’t. Or let them all stand in the same line and simply mark “non-driver” on their application. They pay their $20, $40 or whatever to defray the cost of the procedure… and a few weeks later they receive their shiny photo I.D. in the mail. Problem solved. Everyone votes — except for the 40 percent or so of eligible American voters who typically don’t show up at the polls. Their loss.
Rick Bayan is founder-editor of The New Moderate.