Voting Restrictions Racist?

I fail to see how a law requiring photo ID at polls is discriminatory against anyone, but that’s just what the NAACP is claiming.

"The NAACP accuses the U.S. Justice Department of weakening one of the nation’s most important voting laws. On Friday, the Justice Department approved a Georgia law requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID before casting a ballot. Supporters say the new law will prevent fraud at the polls. But opponents say it will keep thousands of voters away — especially poor and elderly people who don’t have drivers’ licenses and can’t afford to pay for a state-issued ID card. They say the new Georgia law essentially requires many black people to pay a fee before voting."


"Under the new Georgia law, the list of acceptable photo IDs for voters is limited to the following: a Georgia driver’s license, U.S. passport, U.S. or state agency employee ID, military ID, tribal ID or an ID card issued by a legally empowered branch of Georgia, any other state or the U.S. government."

How much could it possibly cost to get a non-license photo ID in Georgia?! In PA, it’s about $10. For what poor soul is that too much to bear? If the cost really would be a deterrent for many, lobby for some kind of subsidy instead of trying to get the whole idea scrapped. Don’t they realize how many dead people and other inelligible parties vote each year?

Am I missing something or is this really as stupid as it sounds?

Update: Gclectic left an intriguing comment in which he called my bluff and presented an interesting idea. As he points out, I haven’t a clue how many fraudulant votes are registered at elections. I don’t think anyone would really deny it’s a problem, but he’s right that I ought to have provided evidence. I was being flippant and he called me on it. That’s fair.

He also suggested some alternatives to the photo ID idea. I really like one of them – indellible ink. Yup, the same ink used in Iraq’s elections. I think that’d be a really cool – and fair – way to curb voter fraud. I’d be very interested to see how many of my fellow citizens were – or weren’t – walking around with inky fingers on election day. Come to think of it, there might even be a fringe benefit to the practice – increased voter turnout.

Something similar happens in the Catholic Church. Every year on Ash Wednesday, churches are packed. More people attend that mass – one that isn’t even a holy day of obligation – than any other mass throughout the year. Why? Well, the full answer is complicated, but at least some of them likely attend because they get something to show for it. They get ashes put on their foreheads. First of all, people, particularly Americans, like to feel like they get something to show for their efforts. Secondly, for the rest of the day they can advertise what good Catholics they (allegedly) are, simply by being seen in public.

What does the Catholic Church have to do with US elections? Well, perhaps if voters got to walk around with ink on their fingers – a something tangible they could show off – they’d be more inclined to get off their lazy butts and vote. I’m sure I don’t have to provide statistical proof that voter turnout is often no higher than 60% of those who are eligible. So, with indellible ink we could fight voter fraud and possibly increase voter turnout in the process. Cool. 🙂

Comments 15

  1. Gclectic wrote:

    Sorry, Eric, but I’ve got to call you on this one. I *don’t* know how many dead people vote every year, and you’ve given no evidence that they constitute a problem. I’ve always been inclined to believe that (outside of party machine locales like Chicago) graveyard votes are mostly urban myths. However, I’m always glad to be convinced by actual research, if you could point me to anything reputable.

    I could go either way on the ID issue, but always get worried when I hear of people finding ways to prevent folks from voting. Maybe we should instead go with the indelible ink approach that we applauded so loudly in Aghanistan and Iraq. You could still get an ineligible voter pretending to be a dead man (if he did his research, and the voting district was careless in maintaining its voting rolls, and he didn’t mind going to jail if the district wasn’t as careless as he expected) but only once per election. With the current system, he could presumably vote as many times as he could prepare fake IDs (subject to the same caveats as above).

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 7:12 am
  2. Funky Dung wrote:

    Well, to be honest, I was feeling flippant when I wrote that. My point, though, was that voter fraud is a real problem. I don’t think anyone denies that.

    You’re right that there are likely better solutions than use of photo IDs for curbing it. Actually, I really like the indellible ink idea. In fact, I’m going to amend this article to reflect your suggestions. Thanks. 🙂

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 11:46 am
  3. Rob wrote:

    I love the ink idea. I’d be proud to walk around with that ink stain.

    You’d probably get discounts at restaurants and bars, too!

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 1:37 pm
  4. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Do we really want to increase voter turnout? Do we really want people voting to make a fashion statement? (For that matter, do we really want people attending Ash Wed Mass so that they may be seen of men as “good Catholics”?) I say anything that keeps the marginally apathetic home on election day (or Ash Wed) is a good thing.

    I have to admit the requirement of a photo ID which cannot be obtained freely does fall quite clearly as a “poll tax”… however nominal the fee might be. Simply relax the law to let people present other convincing forms of ID, which may be obtained for free or that ID-less people might already have (bank statement, utility bill, SS card, in various combinations). Or, better, add a provision to the statute that state (non-driver) photo IDs be free.

    Always the faithful curmudgeon…

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 3:08 pm
  5. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’m not arguing that the Ash Weds phenomenon is a good thing. However, if it could be exploited to get people voting, I think it’d be a good thing. There are too many Monday-morning quarterbacks in this country. People talk about governmental matters like they’re discussing the weather. When one compares the number of people complaining about government to voter turnout (even just anecdotally), it’s seems that there are likely a number of non-voters amongst them (though I admit I can’t prove it).

    I like Australia’s solution. Every citizen must check in at a polling place. There’s no compulsion to vote, but if you’re there, why not?

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 3:21 pm
  6. Adam Graham wrote:

    Well, I think the idea of the ink is interesting. It doesn’t prevent one of the biggest types of frauds and that is people who aren’t citizens legally voting. That’s been a huge issue out West.

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 8:08 pm
  7. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Again Funky, why specifically (other than a bumper sticker) is it a good thing to get more people (who would otherwise be too lazy or apathetic or unwilling to pay a $25 fine) out there to vote. Do you really want that vote to count the same as yours, i.e., that of a person who would presumably crawl 3 miles on broken glass to vote? I absolutely agree it’s a good thing to eliminate voter fraud, but forcing uninterested, apathetic, lazy people to vote just gives uninterested, apathetic, lazy people a bigger voice… they don’t deserve it. Let them stay home and watch Oprah or play Gamecube. Bitching about results on Wednesday AM is relatively harmless, and surely worth putting up with if paired with the net social benefit of morons not bothering to vote.

    And why, Adam, is having non-citizens vote such a fraud? I can see that it might be illegal, but does that make it fraud? Ought it be illegal? Why not give resident aliens the right to vote? They have as much stake as citizens (many if not most of whom don’t bother themselves to vote anyway) do. They pay taxes (including FICA), purchase homes, bank, shop, cart kids to soccer practice, and engage in all the other civic things that “citizens” do.

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 10:20 pm
  8. Matt wrote:

    A couple of things:

    I have actually been poor enough in my life that I wouldn’t drop a sawbuck on anything that wasn’t an absolutely necessary expense, such as food or rent. Had I been forced to spend that to vote, I might not have voted. And I’m a pretty determined voter. And I was never as poor as many of the people I’ve met in my life.

    Second: I like the indelible ink idea, but I would modify it to put the ink on people’s foreheads. For the aesthetic reason that it would look more mysterious, and for the practical reason that putting ink on people’s fingers–I don’t care how indelible it is–will lead to lots of inky fingerprints everywhere: on clothes, keyboards, hands, etc. Bad idea…really bad idea.

    Thirdly: it’s your blog. You get to be flippant if you want.

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 10:21 pm
  9. Funky Dung wrote:

    1) Thanks for offering that perspective. However, I’d counter that regardless of your limited funds, you’d probably have a driver’s license, which is adequate ID. Of course, those without a license and insufficient funds to get a photo ID might still be likely to choose food over voting. Then again, there’s still the option of a subsidy. I just don’t see reason for the NAACP to be totally against this idea. Is it flawed? Yes. Should it be totally scrapped? Not necessarily.

    2) That would certainly fit well with the Ash Weds motif. 😉

    3) This is true, but I try to keep high standards for myself. I also appreciate constructive feedback and try to act on it when I think it’s reasonable. I have no problem with blogs being highly biases and full of from-the-hip opinions – in fact, I think it’s actually an asset – but if we get too comfortable with unsubstantiated claims and accusations, the medium will devolve into meaningless noise. As it stands, there are already a lot of people indiscriminantly parroting rhetoric and propaganda from both sides and butchering statistics (when they use it at all). I’d rather not contribute to the problem.

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 10:48 pm
  10. john wrote:

    It’s not a matter that the rule is innately racist, it’s that provides potentially racist authorities with powers they can easily abuse.

    They’ll tell black people that their IDs look fake, and tell them to leave or be arrested, and most people in that situation will aquiesce.

    This is just like the reading requirements where white people were given THe cat runs and black people were given shakespeare and failed regardless of whether they coudl read it.

    Posted 30 Aug 2005 at 11:44 pm
  11. howard wrote:

    I’m not wholly invested in this discussion, but regardless of racial implications, I’m not sure requiring a form of id that can’t be freely obtained by everyone passes constitutional muster. Therefore, it seems requisite that the government would either have to make such identification freely available to everyone or not require it at all.

    You shouldn’t pay people to vote, and you shouldn’t charge them for it either.

    Posted 31 Aug 2005 at 12:51 am
  12. gbm3 wrote:

    “But opponents say it will keep thousands of voters away — especially poor and elderly people who don’t have drivers’ licenses and can’t afford to pay for a state-issued ID card. They say the new Georgia law essentially requires many black people to pay a fee before voting.” -NAACP

    This is not a racial issue. It is a class issue.

    Posted 31 Aug 2005 at 4:52 pm
  13. Funky Dung wrote:

    Well, seeing how blacks make up a disproportionate number of the poor, they’ll take a worse beating.

    Posted 31 Aug 2005 at 5:12 pm
  14. gbm3 wrote:

    I haven’t been able to find the numbers, but I remember reading or hearing that the number of poor EuroA (EA) is higher than the number of poor AfroA (AA)? (or was it total on welfare?)

    Perhaps the percentage of AA poor is higher, but the total number of EA poor is higher.

    The NAACP has a stake in this issue, but it is primarily a class issue.

    Actually, never mind my qualm. CP (which NAACP represents) have a stake in this issue so the NAACP should have said something, which they did.

    Posted 31 Aug 2005 at 6:37 pm
  15. A. Carlton Sallet wrote:

    I wash the ashes off with holy water as soon as I leave the church. Christ disliked the Pharisees and Seducees for using outward signs of piety to put everyone else down.

    “Look at me – I’m holier than you” is not what Ash Wednesday is about.

    Great blog, BTW!

    Posted 06 Sep 2005 at 9:21 pm

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