Voter ID laws poll strongly
, and why not—we need ID to handle many routine day-to-day transactions. It's logical people would assume the same would be required for something as important as voting.
Of course, there's no real evidence of voter fraud beyond James O'Keefe's shenanigans. But Republicans win this argument hands down in the court of public opinion. It's not even close. Indeed, rather than be skeptical of Republicans pushing these restrictive laws, it is the Democrats arguing against them that end up looking suspicious. Asking for ID is just not seen as a big deal for the vast majority of people.
The problem with most voter ID laws is that there's a small but significant chunk of the population that is shut out of the voting process by ID requirements. Thus, the focus should be less on preventing ID laws that garner much popular support, and more on crafting solutions that ensure that everyone gets to vote.
The best, easiest, and cheapest solution is what California (mostly), Oregon and Washington already do—vote by mail. Ballots are mailed out to the homes of registered voters several weeks before election day, voters fill them out, and either mail them back in or drop them off at select drop boxes if you don't trust the USPS. Oregon has had this system since 2000 with zero problems.
While Ohio's Republican leadership has done much to try and restrict early voting, it is also aggressively promoting its vote-by-mail option. Thirty percent of Ohio voters voted by mail in 2008, and all Ohio voters will receive an absentee ballot application in the mail this year. As voters in the state become more used to voting by mail, it should mitigate all the other problems the state has historically suffered. Sure, black churches may like marching as a congregation to a polling place the Sunday before the election, but there's nothing stopping them from having parishioners show up with their absentee ballots that same Sunday and keeping voting a community event.
But if you're not going to do vote-by-mail, Virginia shows how a voter ID law can be inoffensive.
- If you show up without proper ID, you can vote provisionally, and you then have three days to come up with proper ID. And you don't have to show up in person to prove your identification. You can email, snail mail or fax the proof.
- You don't need a photo ID. Acceptable forms of ID are: driver's license, school ID, employee badge, utility bills, paychecks with an address, bank statements or a special voter ID card. Pretty much anything with your face and name, or name and address.
- A voter ID card will get mailed to every registered voter in the state. If you register, you get your card in the mail.
I just can't think of a case where a legitimate voter would be denied the ability to vote with these requirements, and the three-day grace period ensures that even those who forget their ID still get to vote.
This is nothing like Pennsylvania's ridiculously restrictive voter ID law, or Florida's attempts to purge its voter rolls of legitimate people.
The requirement for an ID may be unnecessary, but asking for ID seems commonsensical to most people. Fighting requirements for ID breed unnecessary suspicion. So let's focus on allowing people no-excuse vote-by-mail, or on voter ID laws like Virginia, which present little barriers to anyone trying to vote.