It is time that Democrats and Republicans cease the playground squabbling over the proposed constitutional amendment requiring Missouri voters to present a photo ID to cast a ballot. I know from experience that this opinion will trigger calls for my dismissal as an evil right wing Republican whose sole intent is the disenfranchisement of otherwise eligible Democratic voters along with a modicum of approval from the other side.
In the matter of election procedures, I am seldom at odds with Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren inasmuch as I know from years of experience her integrity and professionalism to be beyond reproach. Additionally, I believe that Ms. Noren is above playing at partisan politics with this issue but rather is convinced sincerely that the occurrence of voter fraud here is nonexistent and, that in both financial and voter eligibility impact, she is best serving the county’s interests in opposing the voter photo ID.
Nevertheless, this is an attitude observed neither nationally nor statewide by the Democratic Party and its left of center media supporters. Remember the 2006 striking down of the Missouri voter ID law and the United States Supreme Court’s upholding of similar legislation passed in Indiana and Georgia? According to Democratic legislators, spokespersons and the far left, voter ID is but a dastardly Republican plot to suppress the votes of the poor, the disabled and the minorities.
It should by now be possible for adult leadership in both parties to step forward and engineer objective compromise in solving an issue which, in reality, is just not that difficult. The last time I was a student of American and Missouri government, the legislature was responsible for establishing voter eligibility and procedures without regard for political party affiliation.
I readily admit to having no particular expertise in the occasion of voter fraud; however, to categorically deny its very existence or its proclivity to recur is to ignore history as well as to endorse fatuously the honesty, integrity and character of all who engage in politics. Requiring a picture ID to vote will not eliminate all voter fraud but, as do locks, it will serve to keep honest people honest.
As the U. S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of voter ID laws, it would appear virtually inevitable that, sooner or later, it will become law in Missouri. Why then would it not be prudent for the lawmakers to work out the details of what constitutes reasonable legal identification, the procedures for waiving that requirement in those cases of age, infirmity or difficulty in determining time and place of birth, and solutions for other unforeseen conditions?
Does anyone have a problem with a student ID card or out of state driver’s license or other official photo identification if so authorized by the Missouri legislature? And, as an elderly, disabled minority (Boone County Republican), I find the “hardships” in obtaining the necessary documents to be somewhat overstated.
The secretary of state’s estimated 230,000 voters without proper ID is considerable; nevertheless, it pales when compared with eligible voter turnout. For example, the 2008 presidential election counted 2.9 million voters or nearly 70 percent. This high participation notwithstanding, almost 1.5 million stayed home. And, as the April 7 election turnout of about 10 percent of the Boone County eligible voters, the number of those without the credentials who actually vote falls somewhere in between.
The 2008 election results in the two government ID picture states refute the premise that such a requirement suppresses voter turnout. In fact, the reverse was true as the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found the Georgia Democratic voter turnout to have increased by 6.1 percent and in Indiana by 8.32. The corresponding Republican turnout was up .022 percent in Georgia and down by 3.57 in Indiana.
Accordingly, it would seem that it is not nearly as difficult for those who actually want to vote to acquire the necessary credentials as is advertised and that it is in the best interests of the political parties to encourage their voters to participate by actually assisting them in acquiring that documentation. The monies and efforts dispensed pro and con on voter ID would be better spent in qualifying voters. I fail to see the logic in assuming that the Democratic Party owns a monopoly on disadvantaged voters or that they are any more apt to be “disenfranchised” as a result.
Finally, one needs a photo ID to board an aircraft, pick up one’s mail or rent a DVD – shouldn't the privilege to vote command at least that much dignity?
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.