I doubt that any knowledgeable or realistic advocate of Missouri's proposed constitutional amendments (SJR 2 and SB 3) requiring photo ID to vote believes there is any real threat of voter fraud in the varied counties and Mayberrys around the state. There is also room for serious discussion and disagreement as to photo ID necessity when balanced against cost and/or voter inconvenience.
Nevertheless, to deny categorically the very existence of voter fraud or its proclivity to recur is to ignore history, as well as to endorse blindly the honesty, integrity and character of all who engage in electioneering and elections. Huge sums of money are raised and spent by candidates, political parties, political action committees, unions and special interest groups — the most fertile arenas for fraud and political hanky-panky are, as always, the metropolitan areas or cities.
The issue needing to be addressed and put to rest is the silly and insulting allegation that the photo ID voter requirement is but a sinister Republican ploy to suppress voter turnout, primarily among elderly, disabled, poor and minority voters. Are we to assume that Democrats hold a monopoly here — that there are no elderly, disabled, poor or minority Republicans?
This is pure demagoguery at its most asinine — along with "Republicans are out to take away your Social Security and Medicare and throw Grandma and Grandpa into the street," assertions that play on prejudice rather than fact. Does it not matter that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 upheld the constitutionality of voter photo ID laws, stating in the Indiana decision that the law was neutral in its application?
Is there any adult who doesn't know that without producing photographic identification, it is virtually impossible to cash a check, board an aircraft, pick up one's mail, purchase full-strength Sudafed, pick up a ticket at a will-call window or even rent a DVD from Blockbuster? Does it not stand to reason that the privilege of voting, paid for in full by brave men and women, should command at least that degree of respect and dignity?
Admittedly, there are people who don't drive and do not possess the most common form of ID, the driver's license. Those who wish to excuse them from the requirement infer that many cannot afford or are otherwise unable to acquire the documentation (birth certificate) required for a state ID. But while one may not apply for or receive Social Security or food stamps without identification — a driver's license, a state ID or a birth certificate — the disadvantaged do seem to receive Social Security and/or food stamps.
The provisions of SB 3 do require photo identification for voters — driver's license; Armed Forces, National Guard, Veterans Affairs or state ID card; or other photo document certified by state or federal authority. Those lacking the identification are permitted to cast a provisional ballot provided they can be identified by their signature on file with the election authority.
Moreover, the proposed act stipulates that the secretary of state will provide notice of the ID requirements and that the state provide at least one form of identification and at least one document to acquire that identification for those who do not possess one. In each instance, the identification and documentation are to be provided at no cost to the voter, thus further dispelling the myth that the poor or disadvantaged will be unable to cast a ballot.
Consequently, the difficulty in acquiring the required credentials for those who actually intend to vote is highly exaggerated. It would also appear to be in the best interests of the political parties to assist and encourage their poor, disabled, elderly and minority members in the acquisition of the necessary documentation — much as they do now in driving them to the polls on election day.
Again, the presumption that the Democratic Party owns a monopoly on disadvantaged voters and, as such, they are more apt to be disenfranchised is not substantiated by fact. Equally questionable is the estimated photo ID-induced "disenfranchisement" of 300,000 voters, particularly when another million and a half stayed home.
I may be overly optimistic, but I believe the Democratic Party patronizes and short-changes its constituents by announcing they somehow lack the initiative or the ability to meet requirements to vote. Disadvantaged Republican voters don't seem to have that problem.
Finally, the requirement to produce a photo ID to obtain a ballot will not eliminate voter fraud per se. But, as is the case with locks and fences, it will serve to keep honest people honest.
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.