Let's take aim at Model Bill 7G16 (PDF) - an ALEC-sponsored Voter ID Act passed in 2009 by a committee now co-chaired by the NRA (yes, that NRA). So, you ask, what does the NRA know about elections ... other than buying them? Follow me to the shooting range below the Fleur-de-Kos ...
Proof of Identity Requirements
The ALEC model bill entitled “Voter ID Act” states, in its summary, that it “requires any United States citizen desiring to vote in a state to provide proof of identity at the polls.” Sounds reasonable enough, right? But, as usual, the devil is in the details. Most states, if not all, already have statutes requiring citizens to provide proof of identity in order to vote, in some cases requiring only a utility bill and in other cases requiring one of several documents including social security card, student ID, driver's license, or passport. The model legislation, however, sets its sight much higher, requiring that any document purporting to be “proof of identity” meet these four criteria:
- The document must show the name of the person to whom it was issued;
- It must display a photograph of the person to whom it was issued;
- It must contain an expiration date that is not expired; and
- It must be issued by the State or by the United States.
Proof of Identity Implications
These “proof of identity” requirements may appear benign, but bear with me while I discuss each shot across the bow:
1. The document must show the name of the person to whom it was issued
Meeting this first requirement, that of showing the name of the person, is usually not a problem. This requirement can be met by the use of a utility bill, student ID, Social Security card, driver's license, or passport. Most voters are safe from this shot.
2. It must display a photograph of the person to whom it was issued
This second requirement, that of showing a photograph of the person, restricts the type of documentation which can be used as proof of identity. For instance, a utility bill is unlikely to have the picture of the person to whom it was issued (at least mine doesn't). Likewise, a Social Security card does not include a picture. Drivers' licenses and passports would meet both this and the above criteria as they both display an individual's picture and name but you can see the trend here as the types of acceptable documentation are winnowed down, as in my sample list in Item 1, from five to two. The margin of safety has narrowed considerably, but most voters are still safe.
3. It must contain an expiration date that is not expired
The third criterion requires that the proffered document include an expiration date and that the document not be “expired.” As mentioned in #2 above, the two most common "acceptable" proof of identity documents are driver's license and passport, both of which have expiration dates. The model bill provides that the enacting state must issue identification cards (supposedly meeting these requirements) at no cost to any person who does not have a valid driver's license and who will be at least 18 years of age at the next election. Now the sharp-shooters are out, because the model bill does not provide the wherewithal to actually obtain such an ID card (such as overcoming language, transportation, and logistical barriers), ringing the death knell for many would-be voters.
4. It must be issued by the State or by the United States
Lastly, the document must be issued by the United States of America or by the state in which the model legislation is enacted. If a document meets all the other requirements (such as a student ID with the name, picture, and non-expired expiration date) it still will not be legitimate proof of identify because it was not issued by the state or federal government. This is the kill zone because the state can modify its ID card issuance requirements at will and eliminate thousands of eligible voters from the polls.
No Address Requirement!
For all the hoop-la about the need for this legislation (to prevent voter fraud) there is no requirement that any document include a current verifiable address. A driver's license is likely to include an address, but there's no requirement that the address be accurate and current. And while a passport is acceptable as “proof of identity” (that is, it meets these 4 criteria) it does not contain an address (unless you write one in on a blank page). How can this basic piece of information not be required on documentation needed to exercise the right to vote? How can you tell if an individual is eligible to vote in a particular election (for example the appropriate school board district)? In my humble opinion this seems like a glaring omission!
This model bill also contains a variety of other provisions which result in a voter being able to cast only a “provisional” ballot. This is essentially de facto disenfranchisement because provisional ballots are often not counted during the initial election return, and often not counted for as many as 7 to 10 days later (a vote deferred is a vote denied). In a time when election results are available within hours of when the polls close, concession speeches can be heard long before provisional ballots are counted. And, of course, provisional ballots are often challenged (remember hanging chads?).
Every eligible voter has the right to vote ... and that right should not be taken hostage by requirements which serve no meaningful purpose. This model bill exposes ALEC's attempt to target voters for disenfranchisement ... and that should be a matter of concern for every American!
This is the first installment of “ALEC on Democracy” ... a series of diaries discussing the model bills approved by the "Federal Relations" committee of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). In my previous post, I identified seven ALEC committees, however I have since discovered that there are innumerable committees. In the future as I discuss each model bill I will try to identify the committee, corporate co-chair, and approval date.