Friday, December 12, 2014

Voter Photo ID

By Bill Kraus

You may have noticed that many state legislatures have put a lot of time and effort into crafting legislation that would require voters to identify themselves with a driver’s license, a passport or an authorized card with their picture on it.

Irrespective of the motivation behind these laws—-voter suppression, a response to polls which show a very high percentage of citizens think this is a good idea, fear of voter fraud, or something else either real or imagined—-they have spawned a long series of lawsuits, court decisions, and appeals from decisions.

In one form or another the lawsuits opposing voter photo IDs are contending these laws are really poll taxes in sheep’s clothing.

Not real taxes of course. But complying with the requirement, even if the ID is provided free, is said to cause inconvenience and expense which are annoying at best and probably unconstitutional to boot.

The people and institutions who are doing this protesting have noticed that the current occupants of the US Supreme Court are concerned about and protective of the rights of anybody or institution who or that wants to spend their money on political speech. They are assuming and hoping that this attitude will carry over and the court will feel the same way about the rights of voters that they do about the rights of these third party campaigners.

This is not a sure thing.

What is a sure thing is that it is certifiably unnecessary.

Almost 10 years ago a report by Jimmy Carter and James Baker concluded that concerns of both those who support and oppose strengthened voter ID laws were legitimate. It recommended voter ID requirements be enacted, to be slowly phased in over a period of five years, and accompanied by the issuance of free ID cards provided by mobile ID vans that would visit traditionally underserved communities.

I wonder if anyone read that report.

Maybe the Supreme Court will and will send all those appeals headed their way, including the one from Wisconsin, back to where they came from with instructions to do what Jimmy Carter and James Baker recommended.

This will save a lot of clients and courts a lot of time, trouble, and money. It will also give the people what they say they want which would be a nice bonus.

More importantly it would free up everybody who is interested in protecting our fragile election system from the attacks on its validity by gerrymanderers, undisclosed interests and individuals with their own agendas and large sums of money, and other brigands large and small.

It might even give a boost to civil discourse among the participants in elections including the newly clearly identified voters who have the last say.

Bill Kraus lives in Madison, is the former press secretary for Governor Lee Dreyfus, and is the Chair of the State Governing Board of Common Cause of Wisconsin.

Follow Bill Kraus on:

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