On its opening weekend, I made sure to attend a screening of Jonah Hill’s new comedy “21 Jump Street.” Due to theatre policy however, the ticket clerk insisted on verifying my identity and age in order to proceed with the purchase of my tickets. Though a humorous film, I exited the cinema feeling quite frightened knowing that Malco Theatres (a Southern movie theatre chain) currently has tougher identification procedures to attend its ‘R’ rated films than 80 percent of the country when voting for the next President of the United States. This contrast reminded me of the ‘Which of the following doesn’t belong?’ questions posed on standardized elementary school exams, in which students would select the obvious outlier from the subset. In the instance of voter identification laws, such a question would resemble:
Which of the following doesn’t belong?
(a) Boarding an airplane, (b) bank transactions, (c) purchasing alcohol, (d) voting for the President of the United States.
When answering the above question, Republicans comprehend the need to verify one’s identity in all facets of modern culture, and would thus resent the fact that option ‘d’ can be named accurate. Conversely, Democrats view the question as one that necessitates an option (e) – none of the above, as they have consistently expressed their preference of exempting voting as the sector of society in which verification should be deemed unnecessary.
Consider for example the position of my current Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and current Regional Whip for the Democratic caucus in Congress. With a straight face, Congressman Cohen claimed that the responsibility to prevent voter fraud rests on “precinct captains, who are supposed to know who people are.” I must ask the Congressman for assistance with locating the requirement of personally knowing all eligible voters in one’s precinct on the application to volunteer on Election Day.
To compliment this incoherent and out of touch logic, Democrats continuously offer the following three myths as their primary arguments against voter ID laws.
Myth 1: Requiring the presentation of government issued identification is not necessary and would lower turnout rates.
The necessity to implement effective voter identification laws stems from the related concerns of voter fraud and voter turnout rates. Beginning with the former, voter fraud has demonstrated its ability to not only influence elections, but also determine them. Most recently, fifty illegal Somalian votes were cast in a 2010 Missouri state legislature election decided by a single vote. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated that in recent years, his office “has secured more than 50 voter fraud convictions. Those include a woman who voted in place of her dead mother, a political operative who cast ballots for two people, and a city councilmember who registered foreign nationals to vote in an election decided by 19 votes.” Additionally, as The Heritage Foundation’s senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky explains, liberal fraud denialists conveniently ignore “a 1996 congressional race in California that was almost overturned by hundreds of votes illegally cast by noncitizens and a 1984 grand jury in Brooklyn revealed a 14-year conspiracy of fraudulent voting through.”
While illegal votes have certainly proven their ability to skew outcomes of elections, the true harm of voter fraud rests in its role towards creating the greatest threat towards our democracy: low rates of voter turnout due to low rates of voter confidence. According to a recent study conducted by American University, 16.6% of voters (within the sample of the states tested) reported seeing or hearing about voter fraud at their own polling location. However, the perception of voter fraud at other locations quadrupled to a staggering 64% among these same voters. This essentially explains that while tangible voter fraud is present, the mere perception of voter fraud is tremendously greater. Unfortunately, we are to blame. Society claims responsibility for fueling the far too common mindset in which voters believe that their ballots bear no impact on the result of the election due to voter fraud. Such distrust only heightens when Americans learn that government-funded organizations such as ACORN admit to filling out registration forms with names they found in phone books. Lack of voter turnout due to lack of voter confidence is the unseen consequence of voter fraud, and has deprived electoral outcomes from truly reflecting the will and desires of the American people. Therefore, voter fraud is responsible for the disenfranchisement of would-be honest and civically engaged voters.
Further, one should assess the impact of Congressman Cohen’s ‘solution’ on the democratic threat of lower voter confidence. To do so, simply as ask yourself the following three questions:
(1) What would happen to your confidence in flying knowing that TSA officers were supposed to personally know all of their travelers (in lieu of identification) before permitting them to proceed to board?
(2) What would happen to your confidence in depositing money knowing that your bank’s tellers were supposed to personally know all of their customers (in lieu of identification) before dispensing them cash?
(3) What would happen to your confidence in sending your underage children to the convenience store if all cashiers were supposed to personally know their customers (in lieu of identification) before selling them alcohol?
In all three scenarios, your confidence in each of the respective institutions would clearly plummet. So why then must you accept lessened standards when selecting the leader of the free world? The answer is that you do not have to. The voter ID law is a unique solution that combats both forms of voter fraud: illegal electoral skews at the voting booth and tragically low confidence in the electoral process. As proof, when asked if the electoral system would be more trusted with the introduction of voter ID laws, 70% of the registered voters surveyed in the American University study responded in the affirmative.
Myth 2: Requiring the presentation of government issued identification to vote disenfranchises poor Americans and minorities as a Jim Crow law.
Governor Tom Corbett’s recent signing of House Bill 934 has earned Pennsylvania the reputation of possessing some of the nation’s toughest voter ID requirements. The statute requires Pennsylvania voters to present valid identification, which can be a driver’s license, military ID, passport, or an ID card from a state-accredited colleges universities and state-licensed care facilities.
As a response to this verification process, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party (PDP) claims that “instead of making the process fairer, this plan would disenfranchise vulnerable populations, like seniors, minorities, and youth, who are less likely to have photo IDs. It would also make it more difficult for all Pennsylvanians to exercise their right to vote at a time when we should be encouraging more voting, not less.” However, the PDP conveniently ignores a certain segment of HB 934, which mandates that “the (Pennsylvania) Department of Transportation shall issue an identification card at no cost to any registered elector. ” In fact, all of the states that require voter identification also provide a free photo ID to anyone who can’t afford one. In addition to such overwhelming strides for those economically unable to purchase an id (which can be as low as $3), the Pennsylvania law provides accommodations for those with a religious objection to being photographed, and provides any registered voter without a valid photo ID with a provisional ballot, permitting six days to show valid identification.
Despite such a reasonable policy in one of the nation’s toughest voter ID states, Democrats who have made it their mission to demonize Republicans in efforts to energize their electoral base. Consider the words of current Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck, (D-Philadelphia), who claimed that this ‘discriminatory’ legislation is a “modern-day Jim Crow law”. Roebuck’s outrageous and unfair accusation echoes the absurdities expressed by current DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who bluntly stated that the Republicans “want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow-era laws.” Similarly, Columbia University professor and liberal commentator John McWhorter called voter ID laws “vile, disgusting strategy to suppress the black vote.”
By voicing sentiments that are so saturated with inflammatory rhetoric, Roebuck, the DNC, and countless liberal advocates cast a shadow on our valued conviction of democracy by distorting the facts, and quite simply, the meaning of discrimination. By speaking such lies, Roebuck and his ideological affiliates have laughed in the faces of those who suffered due to the wrath of the Crow laws by comparing their horrendous conditions to the rights offered to and enjoyed by voters in states requiring identification.
Myth 3: Requiring the presentation of government issued identification to vote disenfranchises elderly Americans.
Extending beyond Pennsylvania’s concern for those unable to afford government issued identification, liberal challengers of HB 934 (Pennsylvania’s voter ID statute) commonly use an argument stating the cumbersome requirement placed upon senior citizens. Democrats feel as though the unique circumstance of the elderly necessitates an exemption from the requirement. As a matter of fact, so do Republicans. I would ask liberal adversaries of the voter ID law to reread pages twenty and twenty one of the bill, which states that “A qualified absentee elector shall not be required to provide proof of identification by an alternative ballot under the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act.” Such a provision provides an exception for the elderly and handicapped, and once again highlights how liberal Democrats have conveniently ignored legislative texts in favor of politically advantageous rhetoric.