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SavoirFaire's avatar

How's this for a compromise on voter identification laws (see details)?

Asked by SavoirFaire (19824 points ) April 16th, 2014

Proponents of voter ID laws say that they are worried about fraud. Opponents say that they are worried about disenfranchising people who would have trouble obtaining identification.

Both sides say that the other has no evidence that their worry is a legitimate concern (as there are very few examples of voter fraud that would have been stopped by any proposed voter ID law and very few examples of people who were clearly disenfranchised due to any existing voter ID law).

So here’s a compromise (based loosely on what my own state does): require voter identification, but provide it for free to every properly registered voter. If the identification is required, then whatever worries proponents have about fraud should be eliminated. If the identification is free, then whatever worries opponents have about the laws constituting a poll tax or disenfranchising the poor should also be eliminated.

What say you?

Please try to come up with cleverer objections than discussing the cost. The currently existing voter ID laws are already projected to cost quite a bit, so this is only a genuine objection if you are opposed to voter ID laws in general.

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37 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Are you in North Carolina ? ? We have ISSUES in NC.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I honestly don’t understand why they can’t keep a national and/or state voting registry that is tied to something like the social insurance number (or whatever you call it there). When you move, you report it. Voting eligibility would be accessible by the elections bureau at the federal and state levels.

In Canada, we can tick a box on our income tax return that submits our address to the federal or provincial elections bureau to register us to vote. Then we provide whatever ID (usually driver’s licence or medicare card) we have. Done. Easy. No extra costs whatsoever on the part of the voter, no involvement by political parties.

rojo's avatar

We can’t do that @dappled_leaves because you guys do that and if we didn’t come up with it first, it is not worth doing.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Tropical_Willie No, I’m in Virginia. We provide voter identification cards for free, but it’s not the fancy photo identification that most proponents of voter ID laws want.

@dappled_leaves One issue is that not everyone has a driver’s license—particularly not the people that opponents are worried about disenfranchising. Second, we don’t all have a government-issued insurance card. Third, there is strong opposition to a national ID. Fourth, the issue isn’t voter registration. That’s fairly easy in most of the US. The debate is over what sort of identification one must show at the polls on Election Day. Currently, most states will accept a variety of means for self-identification. In Virginia, for instance, you can bring your water or electricity bill if you don’t have a photo ID. But that’s not enough for proponents of voter ID laws. They want everyone to have a photo ID, and in some cases a particular sort of ID in order to vote.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@SavoirFaire Yes, I realize the issue with the driver’s licence and lack of universal healthcare – which is why I suggested social insurance as an alternative. We actually get a card for that; if the US issued such a card, it could easily serve as a voter ID.

In Canada, which ID is accepted at the polls only matters if you are not already registered. If you are registered, then it is only a matter of proving who you say you are – so any government-issued ID will do (because we have universal healthcare, we all already have this). If you aren’t registered, then you must not only prove your identity but also your address of domicile. This is why I mentioned registration.

Registration is the tougher of the two tasks, and requires the more stringent ID process. This is why linking it to something like taxes or social insurance is smart – why not bundle the processes where proving one’s identity is most important?

But my larger point is that, yes, I agree there should be some form of government-issued ID that can serve as a voter ID across all 50 states. It’s a no-brainer.

Seek's avatar

It’s kind of telling that the same people who are for Voter ID laws are against National ID.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Seek Exactly. They need to put up or shut up.

LostInParadise's avatar

Where would people be able to get their voter IDs? You would need buildings that have photographic equipment. Those in inner cities may have difficulty reaching such places.

How does someone go about committing voter fraud and what does a person have to gain by doing it? Don’t you have to masquerade as someone else living at a certain address? In that case, it becomes obvious that something is wrong when two people claiming the same address try to cast a ballot. All that you gain is having a single extra vote. Is this really worth the serious jail time you face for getting caught?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@LostInParadise DMV? We renew Medicare cards and driver’s licences in the same place, on the same timetable. One picture, two IDs. Not hard to motivate people to renew their Medicare cards.

And no, voter fraud is not common. But telling Republicans that voter fraud is not common doesn’t seem to have any effect on their belief in it.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@dappled_leaves Social Security cards wouldn’t be enough because they aren’t a form of photo identification. Perhaps that should be changed. Then again, people are rather paranoid about their Social Security number around here, so I doubt they’d be comfortable flashing their card to some volunteer at a polling station. I agree, however, that it makes sense to do the real work at the point of registration rather than at the polls.

@Seek Indeed. I’m against both, but it is certainly odd to be for voter ID while being against national ID.

@LostInParadise It’s possible to have roaming cameras go along with the roaming sign-up stations. We have the latter in Virginia, and I don’t think it would be so difficult to add cameras. In any case, people in an inner city seem the most likely to be near a government building. So the real question would be about the rural poor.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@SavoirFaire Don’t the rural poor usually vote Republican? Surely, no one is asking them to provide ID.

rojo's avatar

Yes, rural poor do, for some reason, vote republican the majority of the time I believe but the majority of the poor are urban and they vote democratic.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@rojo Right. And are close to government buildings.

rojo's avatar

Who? the urban? Not necessarily, most urban poor have to rely on public transport while rural poor usually have a car of some kind. So, if you are talking access to somewhere that might, if the government is willing to provide the ids, get to them easier
, I would say it was a toss up as to who could get to it easier.

rojo's avatar

@SavoirFaire why in the world, at this time, would you even think that a compromise, even if it does make sense, would be acceptable to either party here in the US?

dappled_leaves's avatar

<shrug> It was @SavoirFaire‘s point, not mine.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rojo I’m not asking if it would be acceptable to either party. I am asking if it would be acceptable to those jellies with an opinion on the matter.

@dappled_leaves Strictly speaking, I said they were more likely to be near a government building, not that they are all close to one. Regardless, the main point of @LostInParadise‘s question remains: we need some way to get the cameras to the people or the people to the cameras. Where I live, we have roaming registration stations. I like the idea of just equipping them with a camera. That seems easier to me than trying to arrange some sort of free shuttle to get people to the cameras.

ragingloli's avatar

Just make it mandatory for every citizen 16 and above to have a national ID card. Then you can think about requiring one to vote.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Give me candidates that are worth voting for and then I’ll care. I don’t completely buy into the fear mongering about a national id card. It’s not the mark of the beast and it would solve so many issues. I think that it’s the way to go. Just make it unlawful for use for anything other than identification. There are still issues with it but there would be more positives than negatives. When we have dead people voting multiple times there are serious issues with our voting system. Is it any wonder why we always seem to have to choose between tweedledee and tweedledumber

rojo's avatar

In that case @SavoirFaire it is a fair compromise but given the option between your compromise and no ID I would still go with no ID.

Bill1939's avatar

In Illinois, individuals have a voter registration card and a polling place has a sheet containing the signatures of registered voters. A voter signs a form before being given a ballot and the signature is compared with the signature on the poll’s sheet. No further identification is necessary, unless the signatures do not match. Why should it be necessary to provide additional identification?

Many states in which the Republican Party dominates the legislature, laws have been passed that reduce the hours and days that one may register to vote, the number of polling places and the number of voting machines. They are also restricting absentee voting. The purpose appears to be making voting more difficult. This is opposite to the goal that should be pursued, to increase the number of voters exercising their right of suffrage.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Response moderated
SavoirFaire's avatar

@Bill1939 For the record, I am opposed to voter ID laws. I agree that the system you mention—which was also used in New York when I lived there—would work just fine. I also think the Virginia system of mailing out non-photo identification to all registered voters works well. But since some people are insistent upon photo identification for all, I figured I’d present this compromise and see how the conversation shook out.

Mostly, I think my proposal presents a dilemma for those who support the voter ID laws for bad reasons. If they’re really just trying to suppress voter turnout among certain demographics, then this compromise will be distasteful to them. Yet there really isn’t any good argument they can give against it based on their stated motives. Thus they are stuck accepting the compromise or outing themselves as supporting vote manipulation.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Jaxk's avatar

Melowese Richardson voted 6 times for Obama. Admitted voter fraud but has not been charged by Holders Justice Dept. About the only way you can be caught for voter fraud is to admit to it and given the state of affairs today even then you won’t be charged as long as you voted for the party in control.

Elections are the responsibility of the States. In fact the only elected office in the country, that is truly Federal, is President. Every other office is State or Local. I have no problem with a national ID that can be used for voting but I also have no problem with using a drivers license or general State issued ID. I really don’t understand why having an ID is so objectionable. Hell, you need an ID just to cash a welfare check or a Social Security check. States that have instituted voter IDs provide multiple options for these IDs and at no cost. This should not be an issue other than just another Wedge Issue.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Jaxk So then you agree with me? After all, the whole point of my compromise is to remove this as a wedge issue. Thus the idea of providing voter IDs free of charge to those who do not otherwise have acceptable identification.

Jaxk's avatar

@SavoirFaire – Yeah, I would agree with you on both those points. Remove it as a wedge issue and provide IDs free if necessary. Hell, between the DMV and the Post Office, it seems we should be able to cover most people easily. If they are so remote that they can’t get to either they most likely have a car and consequently an ID.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I wouldn’t be opposed to a photo ID if it were provided free-of-charge to every registered voter. That said photo ID’s for voting is a solution looking for a problem as voter fraud is nearly non-existent.

Bill1939's avatar

Identification cards can be faked. Under-age college kids have used them to buy booze since the beginning of higher education. Proof of address and a photo ID at the time one registers to vote is reasonable. A signature copied from the registration form, compared with the voter’s signature at the polling place is sufficient to insure the legitimacy of the voter. This is how it is done in Illinois.

Seek's avatar

Proof of address?

So homeless people aren’t allowed to vote? Or should we assume that people are forging addresses on their voting documents?

ragingloli's avatar

@Bill1939
Then put some anti-forgery holographic shenanigans on it, like they do on money. Or even biometrics, if you are so inclined.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@ragingloli

Anti-forgery methods have never prevented people from forging documents.

ragingloli's avatar

@Darth_Algar
Sure, but it will make it harder.
And a kid wanting to buy booze is not going to bother trying to fake the hologram.
Neither is a some poor slob in the sticks who thinks about voting twice.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@ragingloli

We already have such anti-forgery measures, like holographic designs, on our IDs. They are forged, not by some kid who wants to buy booze but by professionals who forge the ID to sell to the kid who wants to buy booze. And if some poor slob in the sticks wants to pay money to said professional to vote twice then more power to him. He’s spent good money to give one more vote to a candidate that will ether win or lose by hundreds of thousands of votes.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Seek Don’t know about the US, but from Elections Canada: “To prove your address, you can show an official letter called an “Attestation of Residence.” If you have gone to a shelter for food or lodging, you can ask the shelter administrator for this letter. ”

There is also a vouching system, in which someone (with ID) in your polling division can attest that you live there, though this is under threat with the proposed elections reform which is a contentious topic in Canada right now (Conservative PM… so gotta address all that nonexistent voter fraud).

rojo's avatar

EXCEPT as a means of voter suppression, I cannot see any reason for the ID.

It just seems odd to me that the party pushing for them (Rep.) is the same party that decried the issuance of Social Security cards and numbers back in the 1930’s and 40’s on the grounds that they would be used by “The Government” to keep track of American citizens.
Yet here they are now pushing for more government control, surveillance and interference, all the while bemoaning the fact that there is too much government in their lives already. I guess just not enough in mine

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