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Saturday, October 12, 2013

I Hate When They Seem Reasonable

The only thing I hate more than reading about Republican-driven machinations to suppress voter turnout is reading about Republican-driven machinations to suppress voter turnout--and agreeing with it.  Well, kinda.  Sorta.  In principle.

Over the last few years, a number of state legislatures have introduced bills that require voters to show photo identification when they come to the polls, ostensibly to prevent voter fraud.  The fact that there is exactly no evidence to suggest that voter fraud is a widespread problem--or, for that matter, a problem period--has proven no deterrent to these zealous guardians of the public weal.  And the fact that these laws pose disproportionate obstacles to minority voters--voters who are far more likely to vote Democratic than Republican--is pointed out by only the most churlish and cynical of pundits and bloggers.

Color me churlish.

So it was with no small sense of unease that I found myself less troubled by an article about Kansas and Arizona, which have introduced "two-tiered" voting systems to allow them to impose extra requirements on voters in state elections--specifically, in this case, a requirement that prospective voters show proof of citizenship.  And while I am fully aware that this, like the various proposals to require photo identification, is primarily an attempt to disenfranchise as many low-income and/or minority voters as possible, I find myself unable to muster a good argument against it.  After all, if voting is a privilege of citizenship--and it is--then why shouldn't states be able to demand proof of citizenship before extending the privilege.

What's even more troubling about this is that proving citizenship is arguably more difficult than merely proving identity.  While I am aware that many low-income or minority citizens may not have photo IDs, I also think that, in the main, the vast majority of people do carry identification: I've carried a driver's license since I was 18--and I didn't even start driving until I was over 30!  In other words, photo identification is fairly common. On the other hand, how many people carry around proof of citizenship?  Not everyone carries around a social security card, and even fewer carry passports, much less birth certificates.  Sort of makes me nostalgic for the good old days of voter-suppression through photo ID requirements.

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