G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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I’ll lay out the common sense argument in favor of Voter ID bills. I’ll assume that someone with a PhD in Obfuscation will have written some sophisticated tome which will refute the commonsense argument.
Al Sharpton has attached himself to anti-Voter ID legislation suggesting that such laws which require voters to show a picture ID are inherently racist. Instead of interpreting blacks’ relative lack of ID as a failure on the part of said blacks, Sharpton looks at legislation which requires ID that blacks tend not to have as being racist. To state it a different way, Sharpton thinks that the democratic process is not working around blacks while supporters of the Voter ID bill think that those groups who tend not to get ID i.e. blacks aren’t working around the democratic process.
But if principled democracy upholds “one (wo)man, one vote” a corollary to that would be a rejection of “one (wo)man, multiple votes.” If that is the democratic ideal then we should start with the principle first and then work backwards. Matching a voter to their place of registration and ensuring that one person can’t vote multiple times or under a false name or in a different city or state is imperative.
Rational or not, voting is an act of civic participation. To vote is to act in some small way. It shows an initiative to get out and vote which means to take part in the democratic process. Requiring an ID for voting is merely a pre-thought to the act of voting (and other forms of civic participation). If voting requires one to physically go to the ballot then going to get a photo ID is a pre-thought to the same act. And that process vets a voter by doing all of the leg work required to ensure that someone is who they say they are.
So if one does buy in to the democratic process – as Sharpton does – he should also buy in to ensuring that the process is legitimate. The debate is the perfect example of the difference between liberals (unconstrained vision) versus conservatives (constrained vision). Liberals are concerned with results-goals; conservatives look at process-goals. A more commonsense view – which is held by conservative types – is to ensure that the democratic process rests on sturdy ground – that one vote can be attributed to one person.