ID AT THE POLLING PLACE?
Democrats accuse Republicans of wanting to suppress the vote. Republicans accuse Democrats of encouraging fraud. Do they want a solution, or do they want to stir people up?
Mike McCarthy from the Secretary of State’s office testified in favor of the bill. He stated that both poll workers and citizens have complained to their office about the honor system used at the polling places.
I don’t doubt what he says. As an election judge, I have had voters get angry because we were not checking IDs. Most people that I talk to have no objection to showing an ID, and many think that ID should be required.
But these are the questions that I did not hear the Secretary’s office answer:
■ How many voters have come to vote and found that someone else had impersonated them by signing their name and voting? I’m not talking about people who accidentally sign the wrong line, but actual evildoers.
■ How many election judges have reported having a prospective voter claim to be someone whom the election judge happens to know –someone who is not who he says he is? My experience is that almost every voter is a neighbor of one of the election judges.
I wish the secretary’s office had some facts and figures about how often this happens, because it would be very helpful in making an estimate as to how much voter impersonation actually takes place. Consider how risky it would be to walk into a polling place and claim to be someone you’re not. How do you know that the election judge won’t know the person you are impersonating? Your benefit is one extra vote for your candidate. Your risk is conviction of a felony and prison. If this happened even 200 times in a major Minnesota election that would be .01% of the votes cast.
To me, voting is like our criminal law system. We would rather allow some guilty people to go free than to convict an innocent man. And that’s why juries apply a reasonable doubt standard.
With voting, we would rather have a few improper voters than prevent eligible people from voting.
Most of us have photo IDs. But a small percentage, maybe 5% of us, do not: people who don’t drive and don’t have a bank account and would not need a photo ID except for voting. These people are typically the elderly, the poor, the disabled. They have as much right to vote as I do. To make them buy a photo ID just to vote is a poll tax, says a federal court in Georgia. (And see a recent decision in Missouri.) Even if the photo ID fee is waived for the indigent, it’s still a poll tax. The hermit who lives up in a shack on the mountain and hates the government and has a stash of money that he inherited from his parents that he keeps in a mattress and comes down every two years to vote for the most anti-government candidate on the ballot has as much right to vote as anyone else and cannot be made to pay a poll tax, even if he can afford it.
By imposing this photo ID requirement, we would be stifling 2 or 3% of eligible voters to prevent 1/100 of 1% (if that) from fraudulently impersonating a real voter.
Still, it’s discomforting to think that someone ineligible could vote or someone could vote twice by simply claiming to be a person whose signature line is blank. Recently, a candidate for the Green Party claimed that 25% of voters believe our President was not properly elected. He went on to say that whether it was true or not, and even if some of the non-believers were kooks, the fact that 25% believed it constituted a crisis.
I agree that we should not have large percentages of our population who are skeptical about the validity of our elections. There will always be a paranoid few, but the number of voters who favor an ID requirement are much more than a few and are certainly not all Republican partisans trying to stifle minorities from voting.
The objections to photo ID are cost, inconvenience, and intrusion. The federal court in Georgia, which issued an injunction finding that Georgia’s photo ID requirement was likely to be found unconstitutional, seemed most concerned with cost and inconvenience.
Can we come up with an ID process that does not impose a cost on voters or cause them great inconvenience? Here are a variety of ideas:
■ The voter registration form could include this question: “For your security, do you want to be asked for your photo ID at the polling place?” If the voter indicates yes, then the sign-in book at the polling place will have a notation by that person’s name that an ID should be requested.
■ Prospective voters could be asked for a photo ID. If a voter does not have a photo ID the poll worker could say: “For the security of your vote and pursuant to state law, we are required to take your picture before you sign in.” The poll worker could then take a picture and log in the name of the voter on a list. If later in the day, a voter could prove that an earlier person using his name was not him, law enforcement could refer to the log and the picture to find the impersonator.
■ Electronic pollbooks could contain the picture of the voter. Recently there was a demonstration of these pollbooks at the State Office Building. They replace the mounds of paper with voters’ names on them that are signed on Election Day. All the information on the precinct voters is loaded into a laptop with the pollbook program. When the voter arrives, she can produce an ID which is scanned and brings up the voter’s name and address. If the voter doesn’t have an ID, the poll worker can type in her name to bring up the record. The voter signs in on an electronic pad like those in some department stores. It would be simple to upload a photo of the voter, either at the time of registration or at the time of voting. Fingerprints could also be used as IDs.
■ Voters could be required to dip a finger in colorful ink as in Iraq. This would prevent multiple voting. It would also be fun and could replace those “I Voted” stickers!
You might roll your eyes at some of these ideas, but the point is there are ways to reassure the public that fraud is not taking place without putting undue expense or inconvenience on the least fortunate of our voters. It just takes some creativity.
So let’s put partisanship aside and brainstorm a way to give all voters confidence that the system is accessible, secure, and fair.