Commentary: What's the big deal about voter ID law?
Columnist says focus should be on getting more people to vote
By Derrell Connor
Special To Channel 3000
I don't have a problem with voter ID.
Now I know that statement is going to make some folks upset. But I've never understood why requiring people to show identification before they vote is somehow a bad thing. After all, you have to show ID before entry into a bar or club. If you go to a liquor or convenience store to buy alcohol and you look like you're under 30, you have to show identification. You often have to show identification when writing or cashing a check and using a debit card.
So what's the big deal?
This issue seems to fall along party lines. Most Republicans favor photo identification because they feel that it is a necessary tool to prevent voter fraud. Most Democrats disagree, fearing that minorities, the elderly and the poor in particular will be disenfranchised because many of them do not have proper identification.
This has been a hot button issue in several states, including Pennsylvania, which has a state Supreme Court decision looming. Here in Wisconsin, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is also asking that voter ID legislation be taken up by the state Supreme Court ahead of November's state and presidential elections.
Here's the deal: If you were born in the United States, you should have both a birth certificate and Social Security number assigned to you. So if either or both of those documents were lost or misplaced, it shouldn't be difficult to contact the municipality you were born in for a copy of your birth certificate and the Social Security Administration for a new card. Yes, it costs money, but I think it's more than worth the peace of mind knowing that you posses some form of proper identification. I don't think it's a violation of anyone's rights to ask that you show a valid photo ID proving that you are who you say you are before casting a vote.
Having said that, I also don't believe that the reason why we need voter ID is because we have this rampant, widespread individual fraud going on around the country. In a recent study, which examined 2,068 alleged voter fraud cases since the year 2000, only 10 cases of voter impersonation were found. When you consider the fact that there are more than 146 million registered voters in the United States, that number seems less than minuscule.
I'm not saying that strange things haven't happened on Election Day -- cases of organized voter irregularities in polling places across the country come to mind. Politics is a multi-billion dollar industry, so it would be extremely naive of me to think fraud can't or doesn't happen. But I don't buy into this notion that there are individuals going to three or four different polling places in an attempt to cast more than one vote. Between work, kids and other activities, most people have barely enough time to fit waiting in line at a polling center into their schedules, let alone doing it multiple times.
If the argument is that we need a better system for the verification of millions of voters and this is the way to do it, I can agree with that. I just disagree that we need it to curb widespread impersonation.
Voting is our duty as Americans, and everyone who is eligible to do so should exercise that right. Many people have risked their lives, even died for the right to vote, so I take it very seriously.
Unfortunately, voter turnout across the country is consistently low. Maybe the focus should be on how we get more people to the polls and less about a case that may occur once in every 15 million voters.
Derrell Connor works in the insurance industry in Madison and hosts a weekly radio show on WIBA AM. His column will run the second and fourth Thursday of the month on Channel 3000.
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