KARL MILLER: Photo IDs for voters — why not?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011 | 1:39 p.m. CDT; updated 10:57 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

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


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Jim Clayton June 8, 2011 | 6:56 p.m.

I agree with you Karl on having a photo ID. Too many dead people are voting if you know what I mean and I've heard of many people voting several times in these urban areas. A photo ID would at least cut down on that or at least if not a voter card then be able to show a photo ID from a license. When I recently applied for social security I had to show my birth certificate and driver's license with a photo on it.

Also it is true about these dems using pure emotion to scare elderly people and Obama himself saying people with alzheimer's and autism will have to fend for themselves under the republican plan. This is utter nonsense and scare tactics. A voter ID will help keep this voter fraud down and not elect such mumbskulls that uset his type of rhetoric

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 9, 2011 | 6:31 a.m.

We are continually told, and some of us believe it, that voting is very important. Well, if something is very important then why not have safeguards as to who shows up and votes? As for costs that might be necessitated in order to take care of ID requirements for legitimate voters, we probably have spent more money each month in Iraq and Afghanistan than it would cost to address ID problems.

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle June 9, 2011 | 7:37 a.m.

"Jim" above provides a good example of typical appeals for voter ID legislation: a vague reference to dead folks voting, and other unsubstantiated anecdotal references ("I have heard"), that even if true, do not seem to signal a real problem. Why he brings the president into this is puzzling, unless it's merely in order to fly his colors.

~~~But the editorialist's stance is more troubling yet. "Why not?" he asks--a seemingly innocent, and reasonable question. Good old common sense. But there's a common sense answer to it, obtained merely by turning around the question.

~~~A more appropriate question is "WHY?" Surely, that's a better place from which to look at legislative initiatives. Wouldn't most folks agree? "*Why* does this bill exist, and what problem does it seek to address?"

~~~So, "why voter ID?" The burden of proof rests with its supporters. They need to show that voter fraud in MO exists at a significant-enough level to support taxpayer expenditures like this. I'm unaware that they've done this: to the best of my knowledge, there is little evidence to show that voter fraud is anything like a significant problem in this state (or in any other). "Why not?," then, becomes a strange justification, given the current economic situation. Let's fix the problems that *do* exist, before tackling those that don't.

~~~In the end, the political answer seems most accurate. While no sane person is claiming a Democratic "monopoly" on the votes of the poor and so on, the truth is that, all else being equal, Democrats tend to do better among marginal voters, and Republicans worse. Democrats do better with a high turn-out, and Republicans worse. Thus, Democrats have sought to ease obstacles to voting, and Republicans have traditionally pushed against legislation intended to make voting easier (motor-voter registration is a good example--in my home state, Republicans were vociferous in their opposition to it).

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 9, 2011 | 12:21 p.m.

The opposition to voter ID is a silly as the support for motor-voter was two decades ago. If you don't have a government-issue photo ID or can't figure out how to register to vote, how on earth do you function in today's society?

(Report Comment)
Brian Wallstin June 9, 2011 | 4:13 p.m.

The Col seems to be arguing his case less on the merits of voter ID than on the backs of his opponents' objections.

The Col.'s argument, as I read it, comes down to: The Democrats think voter ID will disenfranchise disadvantaged voters, but that's hogwash because the disadvantaged vote Republican too. But let's do it anyway, just in case.

The Bush administration's DOJ went hot and heavy after "voter fraud." Fewer than 90 people were convicted of crimes related to elections — mostly felons and illegal aliens who were ineligible to vote. There was no evidence of double voting or other types of fraud that an ID requirement would prevent.

Voter ID is a solution looking for a problem, and since there is no actual voter fraud problem, I have to wonder what supporters think they're accomplishing.

And why would the party who wants government off our backs want to put more bureaucratic barriers in the way of potential voters - unless the potential voters such a law would impact the most tend to vote Democratic.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble June 9, 2011 | 4:27 p.m.

Tim makes the most important point, I think, in suggesting that laws should have very good, very concrete reasons to exist. There should be a barrier of justification placed in front of a law such as this proposed one, asking "why are you needed?" Not simply, "why is this a good idea in principle?" The question should *always* be "why?", never "why not".

It's an accepted fact that many eligible voters will be negatively impacted by such a law; while this does not block anyone from voting, we can look it this in a mature way and recognize that it does not serve the interests of society to have more barriers to participating in the electoral process.

Therefore, any effort to add a barrier (voter photo ID laws) in front of fully legal and eligible citizen voters without an accompanying official effort to strive to the utmost to relieve the burden of overcoming the barrier (new processes and initiatives to ensure that all voters have proper ID ahead of elections) is an incomplete act whose motives deserve to be questioned, if not outright doubted. Laws are never just mechanisms to control lawlessness; they are social engineering mechanisms. We have to acknowledge this and approach ideas like this bill accordingly.

So to answer the question of "why not?", two answers: 1) inadequate justification for the law, and 2) inadequate addressing of the negative impacts of the law. Address both of those points, and the law becomes a more reasonable proposition.

But as I question the motives behind the law, I doubt we will see either of those two points addressed by those in the legislature who are pushing it.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 9, 2011 | 4:39 p.m.

"Why?" should have been asked of the motor-voter initiative. If someone can't figure out something as simple as how to register to vote, it makes me wonder whether he/she has the brain cells necessary to critique each candidate's position.

You already need -- and thus have -- a government photo ID to do everything from drive a vehicle to use a credit card (sometimes) to rent a movie. Extending this requirement to the voting booth is not a hardship.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance June 9, 2011 | 4:44 p.m.

Again, the Col is the minion of the Republican party echo chamber. Here's why not. Voting is a right. Any reason to curb that right in any way must have the burden of proof that voting reform is needed. There has not been incidence of dead people VOTING. So Colonel, if it ain't broke, don't mess with my rights! Supporters want to confuse the issue by stating that dead people registered. Republicans, who claim family moral superiority and Christian values know this and will still lie to the good citizens about this.

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle June 9, 2011 | 6:44 p.m.

When a politician wants legislation passed to correct a problem that does not seem to exist, it is reasonable to ask what the actual motivation for the proposed legislation is. This is especially true when the proposed legislation...
(1) will come at public expense in terms of implementation,
(2) will impose additional burdens (however light they may seem to middle-class readers of this newspaper, most of whom probably lead fairly organized lives) upon citizens who wish to exercise their existing right to vote,
and (3) will *seem* to benefit one party at the expense of its principle opponent.

Those are three factors that, to many, signal mischief.

So, is there a *real* need for this legislation? (The editorialist admits in para 1, above, that there's not.) Until that's addressed, noodling around on the issue of "why not?" is irresponsible.

(Report Comment)
frank christian June 9, 2011 | 6:45 p.m.

Tim D. - "Voting is a right." So? It is a right for one legally entitled to, Vote. All others are prohibited. "There has not been incidence of dead people VOTING." Astute! There are more than a few instances of "live" folks voting under the name of a deceased, not yet removed from the rolls. An instance for which R. Carnahan was being investigated by Holder Justice Dept. until she filed for U.S. Senate election. Seems there are several MO counties with more voters than legally live there. Legality doesn't matter, tho, as long as you can exercise Your rights.

(Report Comment)
david smith June 9, 2011 | 7:15 p.m.

Tim trayle doesnt believe voter fraud exists in Missouri.

From a WSJ article:
"But there is some evidence backing up Mr. Adams. Last year, Justice abandoned a case it had pursued for three years against Missouri for failing to clean up its rolls. When filed in 2005, one-third of Missouri counties had more registered voters than voting-age residents. What's more, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat who this year is her party's candidate for a vacant U.S. Senate seat, contended that her office had no obligation to ensure individual counties were complying with the federal law mandating a cleanup of their voter rolls."

Duh, I am tim trayle and I don't know what I am talking about

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 10, 2011 | 4:11 a.m.

Unless we require everyone to have a state-issued photo ID (and it's really not a big expense - $11 for 6 years), we can't require it to vote. This has nothing to do with Republican backed disenfranchisement of low-income voters. It's simply a matter of fairness to those people that have never found the need to have a photo ID.

First things first.


(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle June 10, 2011 | 7:15 a.m.

Wrong David Smith--you are referencing a county-record voter-*registration* issue (not voting per se) that would not be affected by voter-ID. Those issues typically have to do with residential relocation and counties not following up with new and old registrations. The case mentioned by Frank C (and yourself) also had to do with the Feds' desire that MO do a better job at purging voter registration rolls--the case did not claim that significant evidence existed that fraud was occurring *because* of those messy rolls. (I do agree that the rolls should be accurate--but that can be done without resorting to the extraordinary measure of voter-ID.)

The error in conflating voter-registration messiness with voter fraud has already been pointed out in this thread by Tim. No evidence has been supplied to show that actually voting *fraud* exists at a significant level in this state.

Again, what evidence exists to show the need for this legislation?

And cut it out with the insulting comments about "don't know what I'm talking about." People can disagree without that resorting to that sort of thing.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 10, 2011 | 8:27 a.m.

"Unless we require everyone to have a state-issued photo ID (and it's really not a big expense - $11 for 6 years), we can't require it to vote."

It already is a requirement to function in modern society. Think of all the activities in the private and public sectors that require a government-issue photo ID. If you choose not to get one, then you shouldn't complain when you can't vote, cash a check or get a Blockbuster account.

(Report Comment)
frank christian June 10, 2011 | 10:19 a.m.

Tim Trayle - "you are referencing a county-record voter-*registration* issue (not voting per se) that would not be affected by voter-ID."

Why are you, Tim, ignoring the fact that voter I.D. would quickly and cheaply negate damage done through sloppy work, by agenda oriented, elected officials, such as Robin Carnahan? Your "addition burdens" objection is imaginary. Why would not the "dis-advantaged" want honest elections as well as the rest of us? You are advocating the status quo. Will we see you among the "don't touch our Medicare and SS", "don't cut spending, raise taxes", hysterics?

Here is a little "fly the colors", info: The greatest voter fraud was instigated by B. Clinton and A. Gore, prior to Gores shot at the Presidency. They took over immigration in the country, ran as many people as humanly possible, as fast as possible, thru the process. To stay legal, they ordered FBI investigations on all, but filling out forms for the applicant, they swore them in and sent them on their way before any investigations were complete. We wondered what was going on when reports of filling Yankee Stadium in N.Y., swearing in new citizens, 50,000 at a time, was occurring. Turns out this was happening in Chicago and L.A. as well. Read Sellout by Democrat, David Schippers, 2000. He alludes to the thousands of criminal element turned loose on our streets, "on the assumption they might vote Democratic".

True, voter ID, could not prevent this.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance June 10, 2011 | 12:24 p.m.

I don't care if "modern" society requires photo ID. Prove that there is an epidemic of people voting when they shouldn't Otherwise quit messing with my rights. It is sad that someone that served our country wants to disenfranchise their citizens. What a disgrace.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 10, 2011 | 6:27 p.m.

The 24th Amendment to the US Constitution has some guidance on this issue.
"Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Photo IDs would need to be free at least for federal elections.
Now about those allegedly widespread (phantom) felonies....

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 11, 2011 | 9:46 a.m.

Tim, it's no big deal to get an ID and show it at the polling place. This isn't a poll tax. Try stomping your foot and bawling, "No, I just won't show it!" when a cop or cashier asks for your ID.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller June 11, 2011 | 1:30 p.m.

In my opening paragraph, I made it clear that there was room for argument as to the need for the Photo ID when balanced against the cost and the history or absence therfeof of voter fraud. My point remains unchanged..the Democratic Party's allegation that it is a Republican plot to suppress disadvantaged voters is beyond silly.

However, for those who opine that voting is an inalienable right, I offer the following: ""In its 2000 ruling, Alexander v Mineta, the [U.S. Supreme] Court ... affirmed the district court's interpretation that our Constitution 'does not protect the right of all citizens to vote, but rather the right of all qualified citizens to vote.' And it's state legislatures that wield the power to decide who is 'qualified.'
As a result, voting is not a right, but a privilege granted or withheld at the discretion of local and state governments.... the U.S. is one of just 11 nations among 120 or so constitutional democracies that fail to guarantee a right to vote in their constitutions."

Finally, for those who evidently did not take time to read the entire column and continue to carp over the cost to the individual, I am reposting the paragraph in its entirety.

"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"

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 11, 2011 | 4:05 p.m.

"...the Democratic Party's allegation that it is a Republican plot to suppress disadvantaged voters is beyond silly."

Look at this bit of high comedy from history!

I mean, how silly is that?!?
Or look at these hijinx!

So much silliness - so little democracy.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance June 11, 2011 | 5:32 p.m.


You speak of cashiers and cops. i am talking about my RIGHT to vote. Not writing a check. Your ilk is clouding the issue with red herrings and shiny nickels.

Col, Read the 24th amendment again my conservative friend. It says the right of the citizen to vote in any...... Apparently there is some "activist" judges that are contradicting the Constitution. I didn't think you liked "activist" judges. There has been no cause for the restrictions on this right, therefore it should not be abridged. Time for Republicans to stop with this nonsense and produce the jobs they were elected to create.

(Report Comment)
frank christian June 11, 2011 | 6:41 p.m.

tim - you love the rule (24th Amend.),that gives a citizen the right to vote, but ignoring the millions of illegal aliens in the country and effort being expounded by liberal democrats, such as yourself, to add to the number and get them a vote, you bridle at an attempt require proof of ones citizenship, through an easily available form of identification.

You harp about Your rights! A lame and shallow argument against a requirement, that would only help prevent fraud and assure more honest elections, because of lack of proof suitable to You, is disingenuous to say the least.

We heard it from Tim first! The BO administration can't produce jobs, we must turn to Republicans to "produce the jobs they were elected to create." Tim, there are still too many D's in our Congress and WH, you could help them out (of there) if you would stop carrying their stagnant water.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller June 12, 2011 | 7:30 p.m.

Mr Dance..Apparently you did not read the 24th Amendment to the end. "The right of citizens to vote in any primary or other elections for President or Vice President or electors, infinitum shall not be denied or abridged by the U S or any State by REASON OF FAILURE TO PAY POLL TAX OR OTHER TAX." Perhaps you can point out where the voter photo ID proposed legislation mentions "poll tax?"

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle June 13, 2011 | 7:51 a.m.

The editorialist shouts in all caps: "Perhaps you can point out where the voter photo ID proposed legislation mentions "poll tax?"
So long as the documents *required* to obtain the free state-issued ID are also themselves available at no charge (i.e., a birth certificate replacement, a passport, etc.), then this would not amount to a monetary burden (the poll tax analogy). But if those documents carry a charge to the prospective voter, then yes, the legal barrier against voter ID remains significant, as I see it anyway.
~~~ Those kinds of charges would probably not amount to much for most readers here, but for the poor, they can be an issue. We should remember that.

~~~And again, we should remember that voter ID is a solution in search of a problem. No one yet has bothered to produce evidence that significant voter fraud plagues MO elections.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield June 13, 2011 | 12:09 p.m.

"You speak of cashiers and cops. i am talking about my RIGHT to vote. Not writing a check."

Again, Tim, you already need to carry a government-issue ID to do so many other things. It's not unreasonable to expect you to show it to vote, too.

(Report Comment)
frank christian June 13, 2011 | 1:52 p.m.

Tim Trayle - "Those kinds of charges would probably not amount to much for most readers here, but for the poor, they can be an issue. We should remember that." Why, because you said it? In many cases our poor are limited to one color TV and in many cases one automobile. Quit kidding us with your pseudo-concern for the "poor".

"No one yet has bothered to produce evidence that significant voter fraud plagues MO elections." We should also wait until the horse is gone, before closing the barn door. Right?

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle June 13, 2011 | 2:43 p.m.

Frank--please refrain from acting as if you can detect when people's concerns are real or not. You have no way of knowing that, yet you label mine as false. I find that insulting, and it violates the spirit of the forum rules, which call for civility. Again, please only make these kinds of aspersions when it's really warranted. Thanks!

(Report Comment)
frank christian June 13, 2011 | 6:39 p.m.

Tim Trayle - I thought all of us made decisions about each others "concerns", honesty, dishonesty, etc., most every time we interact. You have presented some broad brushed paintings of the financial abilities of some voters to comply with a proposed requirement, while not having any idea what the cost might be and I certainly doubt that you can know, in fact, whether or not any voter might not vote because of it. This is what led me to question your "concerns". If this is insulting to you, I can retract the "kidding" remark, but ask that you in this instance, add more tangible evidence to your position.

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle June 14, 2011 | 6:52 a.m.

Hi Frank,
Thank you for your apology; I am very concerned about voter disenfrachisement, including when it happens to the least powerful in our society.
__We already know that in states which have passed voter-photo-ID requirements, people have been disenfranchised by the burden of obtaining required supporting documents. I imagine you and I would disagree over whether the numbers of those people is significant enough to require addressing (of course, those are the ones we actually *know* about). In any case, that sort of evidence is easy enough to find.
__If fraud at the booth (voter-impersonation, for example) were a real problem, that would count in your favor.
__Given that fraud at the booth is not a problem, why do you think it is that we are seeing so many voter-ID campaigns across the country?
__I'll let this thread go now, because folks have moved on, and I know from briefly looking around the _Missourian_ forums that you are extraordinarily persistent.

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle June 14, 2011 | 7:05 a.m.

PS Frank: the Brennan Ctr at the NYU law school did conduct a national survey just to see, roughly, the percentages of UC citizens who have ready access to docs. of the type that would give them necessary ID:

__(a shorter link: )

__There are other studies as well, done by political scientists, for example, which point to similar conclusions.
__Are there any substantive studies that point in the other direction--that photo voter ID would *not* act to disenfranshise voters, or--barring that--that non-possession of docs. is not a real issue for folks?
__Wouldn't conclusive evidence in *that* direction be good to have before enacting photo-voter ID legislation?

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush June 14, 2011 | 12:03 p.m.

I wonder if a photo ID law could have prevented GOP presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney from allegedly committing voter fraud. The economy is so bad that even with him worth hundreds of millions if dollars, the poor guy was crashing in his son's basement.

(Report Comment)

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