The Photo ID Myth

I had a torts professor in law school who had a reputation for being notoriously difficult to argue with when he posed questions in class.  In reality, he was not that difficult to argue with if you had done your research and were prepared.  Whenever he would ask a question and a student would give an answer, his instant response was, “what is your authority for that?”  He expected you to have a statute, case law, or some other form of precedent to back up your argument with.  This of course was great preparation for court because judges expect someone advocating a position to have legal authority for the arguments they advance.  Judges do not like it when lawyers simply invent theories out of thin air because judges rule by precedent.  Well, that is how they should rule in theory.

The point of me telling that story is that it will serve people well in almost any setting when engaging in a debate.  Politics and policy is certainly no exception.  So this leads me to the statement by many on the left that requiring a valid photo ID for voting will disenfranchise minority voters.  Really?  What’s your authority for that?

The argument goes something like this:  Requiring a valid form of photographic identification for the purposes of voting will disenfranchise minority voters because minority voters tend to be the poorest and thus many minority voters do not have photo identification because they cannot afford them or are unable to travel to the various agencies that issue photo IDs.  Therefore requiring a valid photo identification is a scheme devised by Republicans to disenfranchise minority voters who tend to vote in favor of Democrats.

Of course many on the right say things like, “you need an ID to get on an airplane, buy a gun, and to drive a car.”  These arguments are all true, I do not think I need to site authority here, we know from experience that they are true.  In the case of the poorest within society, lets assume they are not frequent air travelers, they cannot afford a car and are not hitting up the local hunting store for the newest Browning.  So what do the poorest people need a valid photo ID for?

We all know that you need a valid photo ID to buy alcohol, to buy tobacco, and to get a PO Box .  Since we are talking about the poorest amongst us, what about food stamps and welfare?  Do you need a valid form of ID to get those services?  In Virginia you do need a valid photo ID to apply for welfare.

I can hear the argument now, “Virginia is a state run by Republicans, that’s not true in other states!”  Really?  What’s your authority for that?  Lets look at California then: Do you need a valid photo ID to get food stamps in California?  It turns out that you sure do!  Illinois?  You have to prove your identity there too!  What about public housing?  Again, yes, you have to establish identity.

The fact of the matter is that you need valid photo identification to establish your identity in order to qualify for government programs as well.  The exact government programs that are designed to help the poor require photo IDs.  Of course this makes sense because the administrators of these programs want to eliminate fraud.

Poor people have IDs just like the rest of us, even the poorest of the poor.  To maintain these people do not does not withstand scrutiny because otherwise they would not be eligible to qualify for the programs the left surely wants them qualified for and dependant upon.  There is no malicious purpose for asking a person to show an ID and prove their identity prior to voting.   To prove that their is no malicious intent, states like Georgia have enacted programs for free identification cards.

This entire argument against providing an ID to vote is nonsensical.  The government enacts social welfare programs that are intended for the poorest citizens yet they are required to establish identity prior to receiving the benefits.  If the poorest people really could not acquire an ID because they did not have the means to, that would mean they would starve on the streets because they could not qualify for government assistance.  Obvioulsy this is not the case.  Nor is it the case that people cannot provide an ID to vote.  All of this posturing is nothing more than a thinly veiled cover for groups who actually do perpetrate voter fraud like the good gentleman from Mississippi who is now spending 10 years in prison.


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