Among the slimiest of election tactics is the proliferation of Republican voter suppression laws. The notion that citizens must prove with state issued ID that they are qualified to vote has exactly one purpose: to suppress the Democratic vote. It is not a secret. Republicans know this; Democrats know this. Anybody who is not brain dead knows this.
Today, in order to vote here in Indiana, I must show my driver's license to a person with a badge and a gun. Every voter is presumed to be a criminal until s/he can prove otherwise by showing a state issued ID.
Voting is not merely a right; it is a civic obligation. For a state to put burdensome requirements upon citizens before they are allowed to exercise this solemn obligation is a moral outrage that we must not tolerate.
The notion that people would commit a felony -- casting a fraudulent ballot -- is absurd on its face. What would a citizen have to gain by doing so? The right to vote should be as unfettered as the right to free speech. Indeed, voting could be considered as the ultimate expression of free speech.
Because several of our states, through their legislatures and governors, have conspired to deprive some citizens of their fundamental right to vote, it is time for the federal government to act. It is not enough to use the courts; this takes time and legal resources to pursue. Congress could put an end to this in a single day. Consider the following as a model bill: (It might be necessary to translate it into legispeak.)
1. Statement of Principle. The various states have the solemn obligation to extend, in good faith, the right to vote to all their citizens who meet certain minimum criteria. The government of each state is responsible for insuring that this obligation is fulfilled.The requirement for the voter's Social Security number gives the states all the assurance that they need to establish that the voter is genuine and is voting only once. We have computers and databases, after all. The requirement for a state issued picture ID is bogus and worthless. Does anybody imagine that face recognition software would be used at the polling place? Don't these laws give the person who inspects the picture ID to arbitrarily deny anybody the right to vote based on the subjective judgement that "This picture doesn't look like you"? If this is not the case, then what function does the picture fulfill?
2. Voter Registration. States may require a citizen, as a condition of voter registration, to give his or her name, address, date and place of birth (or proof of naturalization), and social security number. No other requirements may be imposed. In doing so, states may caution the prospective voter that fraudulent voter registration is a felony.
3. The Polling Place. States may not impose any requirement on a duly registered voter at the polling place, except to require the voter to give his or her name, and execute a signature for comparison.
For the purposes of voting, it is entirely reasonable to require the states to take citizens at their sworn word. Very few ordinary citizens would risk a perjury conviction simply to cast a ballot. Consider this: in a courtroom, the testimony of a witness is accorded significant weight, by virtue of his or her having taken an oath to tell the truth. Typically, the witness is asked to state his or her name "for the record". The witness is not required to produce a state-issued picture ID and show it to the bailiff. Why should not voters be treated like this?
Has there been federal legislation introduced regarding this issue? If there has, I'd like to know so I can write to my congressman and senators. If not, it seems to me some Democrat should introduce it. Republicans would have a hard time opposing it, wouldn't they? (Insert appropriate cynical comments here.) How could any lawmaker publicly oppose a bill designed to extend the right to vote to all citizens? This is a moral issue. We must shut down this outrageous Republican attempt to suppress the vote of the (non-Republican) people.