LETTER: Proposed government-issued ID voting requirement is wrong

Monday, February 14, 2011 | 11:39 a.m. CST; updated 8:11 p.m. CST, Monday, February 14, 2011

Once again, the Missouri General Assembly is pushing a constitutional amendment that would make it possible to require a government-issued photo ID for voting. In 2006, a similar measure was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court, but proponents of the measure seem incapable of taking "no" for an answer.

This requirement is especially burdensome for students who change residences frequently and might or might not have a current driver's license reflecting their most recent location. Recently married young women, too, are often affected. Other populations, too, are disproportionately affected: the poor, the elderly, the disabled, minorities and students. Estimates put the number in excess of 200,000 Missouri voters.

Proponents argue that this measure is necessary to prevent voter impersonation, yet there has not been a single instance of voter impersonation fraud in Missouri.

In a year when our budget is extremely strapped, does it make sense for them to spend their time on solving a problem that doesn't exist?

There's important work to be done in Jefferson City and little time to do it. When it comes to voting, our system works. It's time for our legislators to confront the real problems Missouri faces.

Jo Sapp lives in Columbia.

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Jimmy Bearfield February 14, 2011 | 12:24 p.m.

As far back as 2000, dogs and dead people were found to have cast votes in St. Louis. The Missourian even did a story about people who have been dead for years but still vote: Clerical and other errors create ample opportunities for fraud.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 14, 2011 | 1:13 p.m.

I wonder what the proponents of this bill have against democracy? The notion that there is widespread voter fraud is not supported by evidence. Whenever this issue comes up, proponents point to voter REGISTRATION irregularities (see Mr. Bearfield's above reference in which the article expressly stipulates that no dead people voted, they simply haven't been removed from the rolls). As is generally the case proponents of these types of measures are operating under their own set of facts that are not based in reality. This is purely a political maneuver designed to disenfranchise a voting demographic that is not enamored with GOP policies.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield February 14, 2011 | 2:04 p.m.

Froth, what you dismiss as registration irregularities are opportunities for fraud. There are plenty of real-world examples of those opportunities being exploited, such as when people vote on behalf of a dead relative or neighbor.

And keep in mind that you already need a photo ID to cash a check, board a plane and do myriad other things. Grown-ups deal with this requirement every day without whining. It's not unreasonable to expect people to show an ID to vote.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 14, 2011 | 2:32 p.m.

It's been my opinion that most folks disenfranchise themselves; the government has nothing to do with it.

I can't count the number of times during my voting career that I've seen folks arguing with officials that their names aren't in the "books", only to find they were trying to vote in the wrong place. For some, they've just moved to Columbia, failed to register, and lo-and-behold expect the officials to know of their presence by osmosis. For heaven's sake, if you're new to town, and have a passion for voting (like me), go find out what you need to do to vote, and then do it....I've done it, and you can, too. I simply don't accept the "disproportionate affected" argument. Is there anyone on Gods-Green-Earth without a photo ID? ANYONE? If your hand is up, why don't you have one? Go get one! Right now! Last time I checked, it's MONTHS before the next election.

Not having enough time simply doesn't wash.

Even the argument, "I move frequently within Columbia" doesn't hold sway with me. Hey, moving is YOUR choice, YOUR "lifestyle" choice....and when you move, YOU have the obligation to follow the voting rules. Columbia/Missouri/USA does NOT have the obligation to make sure you can vote; YOU have that obligation. And if you fail in your just disenfranchised yourself. The rest of us had nothing to do with it, and any efforts to make me feel guilty about your failure will not be met with sympathy.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle February 14, 2011 | 5:15 p.m.

I think we should have a national holiday for elections. Once a year, on the Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November, a national holiday to vote. Of course so many businesses stay open during holidays anyway, that wouldn't really make that huge of a difference these days. So, nevermind, scratch that idea.

I personally don't see a huge deal with requiring some kind of state-issued ID to vote. As Mike points out, it's not like you can do much of anything else without one. But, the bar does need to be set pretty darned low. Don't even give the *appearance* of trying to disenfranchise the least able voters.

Actually, go ahead an do it. It might give the disenfranchised the impetus to organize.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 14, 2011 | 5:24 p.m.

Here's the Brennan Center for Justice commenting on the 2000 election in Missouri, which is what Mr. Bearfield has referenced to justify the law:

"The allegations of fraud related to the 2000 general elections, in which 124,752 votes were cast in St. Louis City, 497,577 votes were cast in St. Louis County, and 2,361,586 votes were cast in all of Missouri.
There were six substantiated cases of Missouri votes cast by ineligible voters, knowingly or unknowingly, except for those votes permitted by court order. These six cases were double votes by four voters -- two across state lines and two within Missouri. This amounts to a rate of 0.0003%. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls."
Now let's compare that with the disenfranchising aspect of the law:

Indiana had a photo ID law for their 2008 election:
Out of 2.8 million votes cast in Indiana on Election Day 2008, it was determined that at least 900 votes were not counted due to lack of sufficient ID. (More than 1,000 people arrived at the polls without valid ID and voted provisionally - only 137 of those votes were actually counted.)

Out of 2.3 million votes in Missouri, there were 6 cases of voter fraud (Photo ID would have prevented... zero of these. There still would have been 6 cases with the proposed Photo ID law!)

Out of 2.8 million votes in Indiana, 900 people were disenfranchised.

You may quibble with the numbers, but the difference is greater than two orders of magnitude in the examples provided, good luck reconciling them.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 14, 2011 | 6:54 p.m.

"900 people were disenfranchised."

A definition of the word "disenfranchised" is:

"1. Deprive (someone) of the right to vote."

Who deprived who from voting? Did the government of Indiana deprive folks from voting?

No, the voters screwed themselves because they did not follow the rules the rest of Indianans expect to, and do, follow. Rules set by the state of Indiana either by democratic vote or by representative congressional/governor signatures.

A classic case of voter the voter him/herself. I'm not sympathetic when a voter screws him/herself by not paying attention. And, I won't be sympathetic with MYSELF if I ever screw up a ballot and realize it too late....oh, I may have a "slap my hand on my forehead moment", but I'll be hitting the one who deserves hitting.

Hey, if you can't follow the rules all the rest of us follow, then it's your problem....not ours.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote February 14, 2011 | 7:24 p.m.

@Mr. Williams,
So those municipalities that enacted laws making property ownership a requirement for voting were not disenfranchising poor people since that action was supported by legislation? or how about Jim Crow laws, they didn't disenfranchise people...
Here's wikipedia (see Jim Crow): "Starting with Mississippi in 1890, through 1910 the former Confederate states passed new constitutions or amendments that effectively disfranchised most blacks and tens of thousands of poor whites through a combination of poll taxes, literacy and comprehension tests, and residency and record-keeping requirements."
You have a rather peculiar definition of disenfranchise.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 14, 2011 | 7:55 p.m.

Chris: Of course those were disenfranchisements of the most awful sorts! Did you think I believe otherwise?

They were specifically designed to eliminate the votes of those without property ownership, or taxing them, or the illiterate, or those who could not comprehend. Those actions went waaaaay beyond any requirements for "who are you?" and "are you a citizen in this area?"

And you equate those forms of government-induced disenfranchisement with the current topic: the requirement that a person prove who they are and their citizenship in a district/precinct?

A grand leap of imagination on your part, methinks. Whatever are you thinking? And you think others are jumping off the deep end with Missouri rules?

If you vote in the same election that I do, I expect you to prove: (1) who you are, (2) that you belong in the same precinct as me, and (3) that you are not a felon or other person legally deemed ineligible to vote.

If you and I do that, then no one...should be allowed to prevent our vote.

(Oh, and for heaven's sake, follow the directions on the ballot. I do, but if I didn't I would, not you. If you don't follow directions, or ask for help (ALWAYS available!!!), tough buzz as far as your ballot is concerned. Ain't my fault and ain't our fault. You disenfranchised yourself. Look to yourself.)

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks February 14, 2011 | 9:39 p.m.

a photo non driver license is like 7 bucks. I am sure people can pony up. How do the poor get assistance without and ID and how to the old get SS without ID? Just who is being left out? The poorest of the poor in the US seem to always have a car and cable and cell phone. All of which I had to have a ID to purchase.

I have voted at the same church in my neighborhood for 3 years now and each and every time I am ask for my ID and the worker checks it with the sheet they have printed out in front of them. I just figured that was standard.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 15, 2011 | 12:01 a.m.

National individual identity cards (with photos) have been in use in democracies in Europe and elsewhere for years. They are used for various situations requiring identification, including voting. Nobody in the countries where they exist seems to think they're a problem.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield February 15, 2011 | 12:26 p.m.

The whining about disenfranchisement reminds me of the whining that led to the Motor Voter law about 20 years ago. If you can't figure out how and where to register to vote, you probably don't have the intellect necessary to cast an informed, reasoned vote. Ditto if you won't bother to get an ID.

It's ridiculously easy to cast a vote in someone else's name. In Boone County, for example, all you have to do is go to the clerk's Web site, look up that person's name to get his/her polling place and then go bright and early to cast a vote in his/her name.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 15, 2011 | 3:37 p.m.

Jimmy, if you are talking about the Fast Pass system that Wendy Noren put in place for the last election, I don't believe that she is bringing it back for future elections, at least not in that exact form.

(Report Comment)
DeAnna Noriega February 16, 2011 | 2:42 p.m.

I think one thing people forget are the people who have for one reason or another been born off the grid. They were born on a commune, were Amish or Menonite and are now shunned because they have chosen to leave that faith, were born at home as was my father. He had to have a note signed by the people present at his birth to join the army when he was nineteen to serve in the Korean war. His Apache parents feared government enough not to want to have their child listed on a roll. They remembered the days when children of native heritage were gathered up and sent to Indian schools thousands of miles from their homes in an effort to force them to assimilate by destroying their language and culture. It isn't a simple matter of paying a few dollars to acquire a photo ID if you aren't on the grid at all. I assisted a woman who had married outside the religious community where she was born and it took two years to finally get her a social security card and other ID. Her grandmother, now deceased had been the midwife at her birth. I honestly don't see why there is so much fear of thousands of voters suddenly appearing to vote when they aren't entitled too when voter turn-out is so abismal. I think this kind of legislation is a waste of time when job creation and closing tax loopholes so that we can fund necessary services go ignored.

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