The Problem with a Voter Registration Card
Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:49 AM
I have long argued for a requirement to show a valid photo ID at the polls. The United States Supreme Court (led by liberal Justice Stevens) has completely rejected arguments made by opponents to such a requirement.
You can see my arguments here regarding the issue.
Recent articles are reporting that Republicans are considering an idea to accept a voter registration card in lieu of a valid photo ID. This would be a mistake.
The purpose of requiring a valid photo ID is for the government to know that individuals who are voting really are who they say they are and are properly authorized to vote. The benefit of a photo ID isn't just that a photo exists on the card. If it were, a Blockbuster card would be a great form of ID. The difference between the two is that there is confidence in the authenticity of the ID (the physical ID itself) and the information contained on the ID.
To secure a driver's license, for instance, you have to document proof of identity through two reliable documents such as a social security card and passport.
There is no true proof of identity requirement with a voter registration card--the requirements that have to be met are just as easy to meet as the proof of residency requirements for a driver's license.
A person can register to vote without ever having to show a photo ID and/or a social security card. In fact, the system is designed so people can register without a photo ID.
If someone wants to register by mail and doesn't have a valid photo ID, they can just provide a copy of a utility bill or bank statement (easy stuff to forge). If they don't provide the utility bill when applying for the voter registration form, they would need to show it at the polls for the time time they vote--after that, they don't have to show it. Imagine a poll worker taking the necessary time to verify the authenticity of a utility bill--that isn't going to happen, nor should it be expected of a poll worker.
The difference between a valid photo ID and a voter registration form is night and day. The former is likely to be an authentic document whereas the latter is far more prone to fraud. Put it this way, when someone registers to vote, the government has no way to know that the person is really who he says he is--there's no identity requirement. As a result, it also would be easy to come up with multiple fake identities to register. The same can't be said about a DMV-issued photo ID.
If North Carolina developed a system identical to Indiana, there would be no legal problems (since the Supreme Court held such a system to be constitutional).
There would be a minor cost for providing free IDs to those who can't afford an ID (like the Indiana law), but the cost doesn't justify not moving forward with this important reform.
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