Three Objections to Voter ID

Over at Voices we have had an intense discussion on the Voter ID laws. Are they as objectionable as I would assert? Or is this a case of “no harm, no foul?”  Perhaps voting should be understood best like buying a case of beer.

My friend, Jason Ellis suggests a scenario:

So Bill, I should be able to walk into your precinct, say “I’m Bill
Harris”, sign an affidavit, then vote a straight Republican ticket? Now
of course there are then 2 Bill Harris votes, they can even check
signatures and prove that you were the real Bill Harris, but there would
be absolutely no way to track me down, nor would there be any way to
figure out how I voted or how to correct the count, the damage is done.

I don’t think as a society taking our election laws as seriously as we
do beer laws is a bad thing.

Of course, much of the question turns on whether the behavior Jason describes actually occurs. Are there documented cases of this sort of behavior? And if so, are of such number that they merit legislation? (That is, is the existing law insufficient to prevent or punish this behavior?) And besides, if one were to commit fraud of this sort, wouldn’t you just use that fake ID that got you into bars at 19? A more important question is the impact of even innocuous measures on actual residents. Jonathan Alter at The Washington Monthly provides plenty of details of the impact in Pennsylvania.

In the run-up to passage of the bill, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Carol Aichele promoted a study estimating that 99 percent of the state’s registered voters already have valid photo ID from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that would allow them to vote. In other words, the whole thing was no big deal.
It turned out that 9.2 percent of the state’s 8.2 million registered voters — 758,000 people — did not have ID from PennDOT.

If then the amount of reported electoral fraud is minimal, that naturally raises another question, why the push for the law? For the moment, let’s throw out the crassly partisan one, that it’s actually a sneaky way to stop Democrats from voting (albeit contrary to statements in the Alter article above), what then might be the other objections to be raised. Three suggest themselves: A Statist perspective, Voting as a property right, and the long shadow of history.

The first two objectives are anchored in conservative political thinking, though as we will see, they are also in some tension with one another. Continue reading “Three Objections to Voter ID”


On 5/1/12 8:20 PM, Bill Vis wrote:

So far today we’ve heard it implied by two Voicers that whites that vote against Obama may very well be closet racists.


My point was that for  some — those I would consider as radicals out on the fringe — do bring a racial animosity into their rejection of the president. Moreover, that race issue has a historic link in certain types of populism. This issue is simply uncontestable.

This racial tinge is not universal, but arises for a narrow set of anti-Obama types (I would not even presume that they vote).

Even then, I do not consider race to be the dominant theme among this radical wing. Rather, the politics seem to be driven by other emotional understandings. The best explanation that I’ve read has suggested that this underlying emotional energy comes from a perceived threat to a way of life, perhaps even a loss of a certain way of life, a loss of a way of understanding ones place in the culture.  Actually, that’s fairly understandable. Folks my/our age, who grew up in the 60s, grew up in a nation that was overwhelmingly white, one where ideals seemed to be fixed. The changes of the last 40+ years have been disorienting, not only with ideals/beliefs, but what happens on our streets, and what our economy looks like.

This is a real loss, and so it would not surprise me if that loss also had a certain rear guard, or reactionary politics associated with it.

Related to this is perhaps a loss of common connection. Once perhaps, we thought of the ideals as applying to everyone, covertly assuming that our viewpoint (white, middle class) was the normative one. Others participated as a sort of mercy, or noblesse oblige. This loss of cultural pride of place can fuel resentment. An interesting blog post on this turn from empathy to disdain is from Ed Kilgore.

Songs of Salvation

She’s Occupy,he’s Tea Party; she’s white, he’s black; she’s Portland, he’s Richmond. Nathan Clarke introduces us to Pam Hogeweide and Emmett Bailey, and asks

How can people who share the same faith embrace such different political views?

How can these two views be reconciled? Well, not by man’s work, that’s for sure. Rather, it’s that Christ has become our Reconciliation. He claims our lives in our particulars, including our politics. Our politics fail, unintentionally harm; we ourselves fall short. Christ’s reconciliation means that we can engage the world, make mistakes, even be on opposite sides. Reconciliation means that the other side is not my enemy, but is someone loved by my Savior.

My guess about what they would do? Sit down and sing songs of salvation.