Trust But Verify
I had an aunt that lived in Chicago and voted Republican her entire adult life. After she passed away she consistently voted Democratic. That’s an old joke but one in which many of us suspect there is some truth, Chicago and Illinois being full of politicians who are, as we all know, of sterling character, upright citizens, etc. etc. If you don’t believe me just ask the Wardens of the prisons that house how many ex-Governors?
I am being unfair to the people of Illinois and I know it but it is hard to resist. Besides I needed an intro to talk about voter ID laws, particularly here in Texas.
The core issue is the integrity of the voting process. The top authority on the voting process is the Texas Legislature, to the extent that things are not modified by the Federal Courts. This smells very much like the fox guarding the hen house. The best we can hope for is the red foxes will counter balance the blue foxes. Off hand, I cannot come up with a better system. Besides it seems like the people who actually work the polling places are sincere and idealistic people even though they are dems and reps (tempered with a few independents). However, I can’t help but think that in recent history the Democrats have understated the incidents of voter fraud while the Republicans have overstated it.
In your personal and business life you probably do not enter into transactions with strangers unless you have some proof that they are who they say they are. Sure, that is not one hundred percent effective but if you are in the hardware store and the person behind the register is wearing the hardware store logo vest and has a name tag with the logo on it, you assume that you can give that person money in a valid transaction. You assume he is not some guy off the street just working a scam (although that has happened). Conversely, if you want to pay by check he is going to want more evidence of your identity than your pleasant smile and personality.
You can see I am headed toward espousing some sort of voter ID requirement. Let me just go with some personal experiences. First of all, my career was in an arena where security clearances were necessary. I am used to showing identification. This doesn’t mean if I was walking down the street and a cop out of the blue wants me to identify myself that I wouldn’t think that legally I don’t have to, but I would probably show it to him.
I worked Libertarian Party petition drives several times in Maryland. Now I don’t know how often the election board was influenced by higher political authority when they disallowed signatures but I want to say the requirements for a valid signature were not so much onerous as exacting. OK, sometimes they were petty. And Maryland is essentially a one party state. It does make one suspicious. Our work around was to get many more signatures than required.
One year there was a big to do in Philadelphia about valid petition signatures. I can’t remember now who sued who but I volunteered to go up there and work on the auditing process. Basically, a bunch of people in teams of two went through a whole bunch of contested signatures one by one and compared things to the voter registration data base and then made a determination for the court. The two person teams, of course, never were of the same political party. Every person I worked with was reasonable even though, ugh, they weren’t Libertarians.
In short (and headed toward a conclusion), I don’t trust those in power as much as I trust the average citizen. I don’t like the government getting lots of information about me (although in my case, they have it) but in order to trust the voting process a reasonable minimum of identification at the polls is a good thing.
To the argument that just getting to the place to register is a hardship for some people, I ask, “How do they get out otherwise?” I am sure there are many people and organizations that would gladly lend a hand or supply transportation.
To the argument that this is just a way to discriminate against fill in the blank I say if you feel you have been maltreated at the polling place then raise holy hell. I don’t mean at the polling place (I don’t need a charge of fermenting a riot) I simply mean register your displeasure and pursue redress in an orderly and polite but firm manner even if the issue isn’t resolved that very day. There are definitely organizations that would lend a hand with that. Be gentle with the poll workers who are probably trying to figure out the latest guidelines themselves.
Citizens have a right to vote. We are way beyond the point where only white male landowners get to vote. Don’t like it; get over it. But we as citizens need to know that non-citizens, dead people, and non-existent people don’t get to vote. Trust but verify.