I had intended to let my last voter ID column in February 2012 be my final word on the subject; however, yet another opinion column published both in the Columbia Tribune and the Missourian has caused me to rethink that decision and reiterate some factual and common-sense data that seems to have escaped more than a few.
The column of interest is a guest commentary, compiled by Marilyn McLeod and Carol Schreiber, co-presidents of the League of Women Voters and Aline Kultjen, chair of its Civil Liberties Committee. Ttitled "Voter impersonation fraud is a nonissue in Missouri," the column goes to great lengths to explain why photo IDs are not only unnecessary for voting but also the requirement to possess one would disenfranchise up to 250,000 Missouri voters.
The authors take issue with two bills already passed by the House and expected to be taken up by the Senate requiring a government issued photo ID to vote. The opposition to this legislation never changes — it cites the "severe burden" placed on the elderly, the disabled, the minorities, the working poor and students that will serve to suppress their vote.
Additionally, they point out that no voter fraud has been documented in Missouri and since there are strict laws and stiff punishments (5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine) for being convicted that should be sufficient to end the discussion.
Admittedly, the threat of voter fraud in the likes of Boone County and the various hamlets and villages around the state is negligible. But, to deny categorically the existence of voter fraud or its proclivity to occur ignores history and blindly endorses the honesty, integrity and character of all who participate in the election process.
There are huge sums of money raised by candidates, political parties, political action committees, unions and special interest groups. Most of this cash is concentrated in metropolitan areas or cities, which are the most fertile areas for fraud. And, since there are also laws on the books against robbing banks, impersonating a police officer, carjacking and a host of other high crimes and misdemeanors that are broken daily, the notion that laws alone will deter fraud is unlikely.
Since it is virtually impossible to cash a check, board an aircraft, pick up mail, rent DVDs, purchase prescription medication, purchase over-the-counter medication with pseudoephedrine and often when using a credit card, it is difficult to believe the estimate of 250,000 Missouri residents getting along without a photo ID. And, inasmuch a photo ID is required for these transactions, why is there such opposition to proving who you are to participate in the election process?
The authors also cite the cost of acquiring supporting documents as a barrier to the poor, the disabled, minorities, ad infinitum in obtaining a government photo ID. Admitting the state would provide the ID without cost, they pointed out the Catch-22 difficulty in applying for a birth certificate — one must fill out a form requiring notarization and the notary usually requires photo identification.
Had they done an additional step in their research, they would have learned that to apply for Social Security, food stamps or other government benefits, one must present either a driver's license, a state-issued ID card or that "hard to obtain" birth certificate. Inasmuch as the disadvantaged do seem to receive these benefits, it appears the Catch-22 problem with the birth certificate is exaggerated.
Missouri House Bill 48 permits exceptions to the voter ID requirement for those with a nondisqualifying mental or physical handicap, those who could not afford supporting documents, a religious belief against being photographed and for those born on or before Jan. 1, 1948. They would be provided a provisional ballot and sign an affidavit that they met the above qualifications.
It is high time to cease and desist the silly charade that has pitted Republicans and Democrats against one another on an issue that is purely political in nature. The Democrats' opposition is that it is merely a GOP ploy to suppress voter turnout, equating the photo ID requirement to poll taxes and Jim Crow Laws. The Democrats have played the race card in both national and state venues to include Missouri.
One can disagree with the requirement and possible cost of requiring photo IDs to vote, but to resort to demagoguery in accusing Republicans of resorting to voter suppression of minorities, the elderly, the disabled and others is simply outrageous. This assumes the Democratic Party holds a monopoly on voters who are more apt to be disenfranchised, a claim which is as suspicious as it is condescending.
Does it not appear a bit strange that minority, disabled, elderly and poor Republicans don't appear to believe that requiring a photo ID to vote will cause them to be disenfranchised? Are we to believe that Democrats who are similarly disadvantaged somehow lack the initiative and/or party loyalty to ensure their eligibility to vote?
The presumed difficulty in acquiring photo IDs for voters is an exaggeration which is also patronizing and even insulting to minorities, the elderly and other disadvantaged. Additionally, each political party's "get out the vote" campaign would seem to be a perfect venue for identifying those experiencing difficulty and resolving the issue.
That the argument against the photo ID for voting is headed the way of the Dodo, an extinct and flightless bird, has been demonstrated by none other than the Supreme Court of the United States. In a 6-3 ruling in April 2008, the court decided that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court's most recent rulings in Indiana and Georgia, upholding the right of the states to require photo IDs to vote, hopefully will sound a death knell on this shameful intrusion of party politics at the polls.