Proud to be an American: a blow to Voter ID Laws

spanish-voter-stickerToday, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional Arizona’s law requiring extra ID when registering to vote, saying that States can’t regulate federal elections to that degree, because that is under the authority of Congress, not the States.

Admittedly, I wish the legal reasoning was more specifically on the principal of extra voting requirements rather than just a Federal vs. State’s rights issue. Technically, the basis of this decision would still allow for federal election committees to create a national Voter ID requirement for registration, the prospect of which I’m not excited about.

And, it also need to be pointed out that this case was not about the state laws requiring people to present Voter ID on election day, but rather just when they register to vote. But either way, this is a small win for America today.

But not everyone feels this way. I had an email exchange with a good friend on this issue today, and I wanted to post some of these thoughts and get some of yours, dear reader. When I’ve written about this in the past, it’s usually caused some good discussion. Here is that conversation, starting with my friend:

I think it’s insane to allow non-citizens to vote.  If we don’t allow them to vote, we need some way to verify that.  I don’t care much how they do that, and if there’s problem with one way, they should find another.  But I think it’s insane for any country to allow non-citizens to vote in their elections.

Show me any evidence of wide-spread non-citizens voting. I’ve been shown articles of sporadic multiple-balotting by registered voters, or occasional voting under the wrong name, but I’ve never seen any instance of any non-citizens voting (especially anything widespread). After Arizona passed this law, the number of people that voted in Phoenix alone dropped by 44%. Over 30,000 people were turned away at the polls on voting day because of that law.

What percentage of those do you really think were “non-citizens”?

So… there’s no need of having a law against robbing banks unless there’s evidence of wide-spread bank robbing?  A few banks robbed here or there, that’s okay.  But if there’s widespread bank robbing (a metric that’s not really defined), then we’re really gonna do something!

This wouldn’t even be a discussion in a sane world.  In Mexico, not only do you have to be a citizen to vote, you have to be a natural born citizen to either vote or even own land!  Any country that says that it’s okay for non-citizens to vote in their elections won’t be a country for very long.

But, these people are saying that it’s okay for non-citizens to vote here unless (or until) it’s “widespread”.  Gotcha…..

There’s already a law against non-citizens voting. What you’re talking about is the equivalent of everyone getting pat down after leaving a bank to make sure they haven’t stolen anything.

This Supreme Court case wasn’t about there being any laws against doing wrong, but it’s about shifting the burden of proof from the “constitutionally-assumed innocent” person to the civil authorities. The government has the burden to find and prosecute wrong-doing. Citizens do not have a responsibility to initiate proving their innocence to exercise their rights. Should citizens, if they want to drive on our roads, have to end every trip by going to a police dept to report the speeds at which they drove?

It’s similar to gun rights. Many Republicans would say that there are already laws against killing people, so why do you need more laws that mainly burden innocent people and don’t even address the main ways that people do  break the law? (In the voting case, the vast majority of fraud happens with absentee ballots, which these ID laws don’t even touch.)

I admit that these Voter ID laws sort of make “logical sense” to those that live in white-middle class America where everyone has an ID. But this assumes that their privileged experience is the appropriate and most “right” standard by which to judge the way Americans as a whole should be “expected” to live. That’s where the moral dimension to this case comes in, and why these laws are acts of social injustice that Christians should fight against.

A “Christian” nation (which we’re not anyway) would defer to the least and lesser privileged of society, removing road blocks to exercise one’s rights and full participation in this country.

I do not advocate standing in the way of anyone legally voting, and I strongly believe that requiring someone to identify themselves doesn’t do that and is not too much to ask.

But that costs money, time, and resources that would be better spent by cash-strapped states in other, more meaningful and productive ways of supporting these “least” privileged of individuals. It’s like pulling food out of their child’s mouth or kicking them out of their house and giving them a photo ID and thinking you’ve made the right societal choice to keep the imaginary “fraudulent voters” from voting when they shouldn’t.

And it’s not theoretical. In Pennsylvania, the same year that the governor signed the Voter ID law, he cut the state form of welfare (called General Assistance), which was $200 a month (for some people, their only source of income) and that affected 70,00 Pennsylvanians. Nearly 1 million Pennsylvanians do not have the necessary IDs to vote under that law. And implementing the Voter ID law costs $5 million a year.

They took some people’s only source of income, and then spent money on trying “educate” them about the new law and “give them” free IDs (a process that has so many requirements and steps that I’ve still never heard of anyone actually getting one of these mythical free IDs). Add to that the fact that Pennsylvania admitted that there has never in the history of the state been a single instance of voter fraud ever found.

Remember, the Constitution sees these rights as inalienable, God-given, and inherent to who we are as humans. There should be a very high bar before any steps are taken to make the exercise of that right even slightly inconvenient.

In my opinion, these Voter ID laws are unnecessary, (now) unconstitutional, and most importantly, essentially unjust. This decision today makes me more proud to be an American than any military victory I could imagine.

So what do you think abot these Voter ID requirements?


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