Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Some Further Thoughts On Voter ID

After both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Indiana Supreme Court have upheld the constitutionality of Indiana's requirement that a voter present a photo identification when voting in-person, otherwise known as Voter ID, there are a couple of observations that need to be made that won't make either side of this issue happy.

For all of the talk of the proponents of Voter ID of the law's benefit in preventing impostor voting at the polling places, there remains one big glaring hole in the state's election law to prevent voter fraud. To register to vote, you must be at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a resident of your precinct for at least 30 days prior to the election and not be incarcerated for a crime you committed. Indiana law does not require a person applying for registration to provide proof of his or her U.S. citizenship; an applicant must merely affirm under oath that he or she is a U.S. citizen. Arizona is one of the only states in the country that requires an applicant to prove citizenship at the time of registration.  After Congress enacted the motor voter law, there have been numerous cases where government workers registered non-U.S. citizens to vote. In Indiana, that has primarily occurred at BMV branches, which has also been guilty of issuing driver's licenses to undocumented persons. Immigration lawyers frequently field questions from immigrants about the consequences of having illegally registered to vote when they are considering applying for naturalization. Most often, they were registered to vote at a BMV branch. It makes no sense to me to require someone to provide photo identification at their precinct in order to vote if we aren't even going to verify their citizenship status at the time they register to vote. Notably, the Daniels administration has taken steps in recent years to prevent undocumented persons from obtaining an Indiana driver's license, which should lessen the possibility of such persons becoming registered voters in this state.

Time and time again you will hear the opponents of Voter ID complain that it unfairly burdens and disenfranchises poor and minority voters who are less likely to carry a photo identification. I would urge those opponents to take a look at the documentation required of applicants for welfare and food stamp benefits. If applicants for those benefits can produce the documents required of them in order to receive those benefits, I can guarantee that they can also produce the documents they need to obtain a photo identification from the BMV if they don't already have a driver's license because they are essentially the same. All of the court decisions upholding Indiana's Voter ID law have noted the inability of a person to engage in any number of transactions commonly encountered on a day-to-day basis if the person lacks a simple photo identification. What that leaves are a very small number of persons who are so removed from today's society, either by choice or mental incompetence, that there remains no strong argument that the photo identification requirement is overly burdensome or discriminatory.

In the final analysis, opponents are probably correct in their assertion that the photo ID requirement reduces very little voter fraud. Past cases of voting fraud have primarily occurred in absentee voting, which is not subject to the Voter ID law. If the proponents of Voter ID feel strongly about the benefits of their new law, then they should back it up with a requirement that an applicant for voter registration be required to prove his or her U.S. citizenship status; otherwise, the photo ID requirement leaves a big hole for potential fraud. Let's make sure only U.S. citizens are exercising the right to vote in this state.


Downtown Indy said...

My sister is mentally incapacitated and functions at a very low level. She cannot drive, cannot take care of many of her daily needs. She gets Social Security disability benefits.

Guess what? She has a photo ID.

It required one trip to the license branch after a trip to the State Dept of Health to get a birth certificate.

It was simple, easy and within a week, she had the ID card in hand. She needed it because she was flying across country with other family members.

dcrutch said...

The defense rests.