Timing is Everything

We seem to have many swing states in the midst of great debate over the requirement for photo IDs in order to vote. It seems to mirror our important American tenet of democracy stating, “one person, one vote”. Any other view on the number of votes an individual can cast would completely undermine a government “of the people and by the people”. I fully understand the “common sense” take on this issue. I mean, how can requiring voter ID be a bad thing. And I am not sure it is a bad thing. Problem for me is that I am also not sure it is a good thing. Here are some points that leave me scratching my head to fully understand the issue:

  1. Why are these laws and debates only being talked about in “swing states”? I mean, if voter ID is such a great thing, why haven’t the legislatures of “non-swing states” picked up the banner too?
  2. Why has the law for these requirements been introduced solely by Republicans and adopted in states with Republican majorities in the legislature?
  3. If it really is a necessary requirement, I am all for it, but why are we pushing these laws to take effect immediately, only months before a major Presidential election? Couldn’t we pass the laws and have them take effect after the election is completed, say January 1st of 2013, thereby giving those most affected by the new requirements plenty of time to meet them?
  4. Are the legislators who introduced these new laws expressing the interests of their constituency? Have their offices been badgered by hundreds of people demanding something be done about voter fraud?

Well here is some information that may help you get a better grip on the issue. First, the mainstream media has again fed us many misrepresentations that cloud the issue. “Voter fraud” is a catchall term. There are two types of fraud. Electoral fraud (happens within the structure of how votes are recorded, tallied, or represented to the Electoral College) and polling fraud (the actual instance where some person or persons have successfully cast more than one vote at a polling location). The second is what would be accurately referred to as “voter fraud”. However, this rarely occurs and comes with the severe penalty of five years in prison and $10,000 fine for each instance. It happens rarely because the risk outweighs the incremental one vote it achieves. So how often is rarely you ask? Evidence from the microscopically scrutinized 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually revealed that, though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. In others words you have a better chance of winning the lottery or being struck by lightning. However, by putting both under the term “voter fraud”, we are led to believe that all occurrences are related and voter IDs will solve all the problems.

I have been reminded by a friend that poll after poll shows the majority of people support voter ID requirements. Of course they do. Only about 10% to 11% of citizens would be impacted by the law. They are the ones who do not already have the required IDs. So any cross-section of the general public would certainly find the majority in favor of it. I mean, is sounds reasonable and they would have to do nothing if the law stands. We rarely protest something that has no impact on us personally.

And the timing is suspicious at best. We have had years to worry about this rampant problem, but have neglected to act on it till just prior to an election. Add to that the fact that the law seems to impact some specific groups of people who historically support one party over the other and it all just smells funny. I mean manipulating voter rights in order to better the chances of a particular candidate winning funny. It is a shame we didn’t address this problem before the primaries. Obviously those results are suspect now due to the uncontrolled and rampant voter fraud that we were unaware was going on.

Having voter IDs in itself is not a bad thing, but why are we passing laws to address a virtually non-existent problem? Why are we choosing to limit the rights of voters without concrete evidence that the need for these laws exists and that the new requirements will purposely resolve the problem? With voter turnout at historical lows, can we afford to make it more difficult to cast your vote?

It is politics at its best and again I am left more than a little dismayed.

© 2012  Commonsensibly Speaking ~ Brad Osborne

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