Wednesday, April 8, 2009


The Legislature is considering what has been described in the media as a requirement that a voter show a photo ID before being allowed to vote. Actually, the requirement is a lot less stringent than that since other forms if identification are acceptable under the terms of the bill. These include a paycheck, a library card, marriage license of divorce degree, hunting or fishing license, and several other documents.

Opponents of the measure, principally the Democratic Party and its allies, are charging that the bill is a Republican attempt to deny minorities and the elderly the right to vote. They do not offer any explanation of why the measure would have that effect; we are just supposed to accept it as fact. Before taking such claims seriously, every legislator has to ask himself, “Am I a big enough bigot to believe that:
- Blacks don’t get paychecks,
- There’s no way an Hispanic person is going to have a library card,
- Minorities can’t be expected to have a voter registration card, - Hispanics can’t get a military ID card,
- It is unreasonable to expect a black man to obtain a drivers license,
- We can’t expect blacks or Hispanics to have a marriage license or divorce degree,
- No Hispanic has citizenship papers.”

He also has to ask himself, “Am I stupid enough to believe: An elderly person isn’t going to have a Medicare or veterans’ benefits ID card, elderly people don’t get utility bills, bank statements, or government checks.” All of these documents are acceptable ID under the bill.

Clearly there is no merit to the accusation that the GOP is attempting to suppress minority voting or disenfranchise any individual who is legally entitled to vote. Nor can we take seriously the assertion that the measure solves a problem that doesn’t exist. We’re told by opponents of the bill that fraudulent voting almost never happens in Texas. They cite the scarcity of prosecutions for this offense as proof. But the claim is not credible on its face. In the absence of any evidence one way or the other it is reasonable to ask, “Why wouldn’t it happen considering how much is at stake in the outcome of an election?” Illegalities occur in circumstances where a lot less less in terms of money and power is involved, why not in voting?

In concrete terms, the fact is that lacking any reliable method of verifying the eligibility of a voter, there is no way of detecting fraud so naturally, prosecutions would be rare. At the very least, it can be asked in support of the legislation. What can it hurt? Better to be safe that defrauded.

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