Electoral Soap Box

There are at least two sides in every argument, and sometimes there is truth to be had from various positions. Among those issues where people of good will disagree is the proposition that only people with proper identification should be allowed to vote.

On the one side are people who would like to reduce voter fraud by insisting that people voting in a given precinct actually live there, and meet the qualifications to vote, including U.S. citizenship.

On the other side are people who fear voter suppression if potential voters are required to jump through hoops in order to vote.

Both positions have some merit, I’d say. Where it gets interesting is in the assumption or accusation that the pro-ID requirement people are actively trying to keep certain people from voting, and the assumption or accusation that the no-ID people want non-entitled voters to vote – perhaps numerous times.

Certainly there have been many cases of citizens being prevented from voting – mostly, I think, in the South many years ago, where poll taxes were charged, and other local requirements arose to keep black people from voting. More recently, Black Panther members in military-like garb blocked the entrance to a polling place in Philadelphia, menacing potential white voters in a recent election.

And, sadly, voter fraud isn’t the exclusive property of our neighbors in Illinois. Significant incidents have occurred – largely in Southeastern Wisconsin – over the past 15 years, including puncturing tires of Republican “get out the vote” vans, and eyewitness accounts of school buses full of “voters” from elsewhere visiting several polling places on the same day.

It’s my view that everyone who is entitled to vote should be able to do so – once. The Wisconsin law that the Supreme Court nixed last week intended to do that, I think. I hope another iteration of that law will be offered that answers the concerns of The Supremes.

It seems to me that every non-citizen (of the State or the Nation) who votes illegally cancels-out the vote of someone for whom voting is permitted. It would be wrong for, say, an elderly person to go to the trouble of requesting an absentee ballot, only to have her vote cancelled out by someone who shouldn’t have been able to vote.

The Wisconsin law that was ruled against let anyone without a driver’s license vote via absentee ballot – either by mail or at their village, town, or city office. State ID cards were also available, of course, but getting one was seen by some as too much of a hardship.

Years ago – and more recently in most states – people needed to register in person to vote weeks ahead of an election. Since the 1970’s, at least, Wisconsin was a leader in same-day registrations, and most states have followed our lead.

I’m glad we don’t restrict eligible voters from exercising their right to vote. I hope we can find a constitutionally acceptable policy that protects the sanctity of that right by assuring only those who are qualified to vote are allowed to.


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