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The Governor and Legislature should stand firm on photo ID for voting


January 15, 2013
We have been hearing that Governor Pat McCrory, Speaker Thom Tillis and maybe some others are backing down from the idea of requiring a photo ID in order to vote in North Carolina. If he was quoted correctly McCrory said he might be open to using some other form of identification than a photo ID.

That's a bad idea.

There is no currently available practical alternative to a photo ID card to help insure that a voter is who they say they are (and are properly registered). The day may come when the technology will be available to identify people some other way but for now that's the best/only way we have. "Other methods" simply will not be as effective.

If you've worked as a poll worker you know that to determine whether the person who just walked up to the desk to get a ballot is the person on your list of registered voters you have to make that decision very quickly. You have, practically speaking, only a few seconds, particularly if there is a long line of people waiting to vote. A photo ID is essential in insuring that the person who is standing there is the person whose name is on your list of eligible voters.

Democrats (yes, we know of no Republican who opposes photo IDs) say not everyone has a photo ID. The answer to that is simple: Get one. That is not too much to require for a person to be able to vote. You have to get one to go to the doctor or check into a hospital. Suck it up and go get one.

Now we'll debate whether it should be free (we think it should not) but whether you get one or not is a decision you make when you decide whether you are going to vote or not. If you want a credit card you do what you have to do to get one. If you want to drive, ditto. If you want to get a social security/disability/welfare check, you go do what is required to sign up. Simple as that.

Ed Booth and Robert Belcher (Democrats) argued at the last County Commissioners' meeting that "some people can't get a photo ID." That is, as Joe Biden would say, malarkey. They insult our intelligence by even contending such. Of course a person capable of voting is capable of getting a photo ID at the DMV, whether they want a driver's license or not. That is, if they can show they are who they say they are. And that is what is required to vote.

So the State Board of Elections ran a query on the list of DMV drivers license holders and the voter registration rolls and found several hundred thousand that were on one list but not the other. So what does that prove? Nothing more than the fact that many people simply ignore getting proper ID. And that is there right. But if they can't get a little card with their picture on it and a few dozen characters of accurate information (correct name, address, birthdate etc.) then they either don't care enough or are not capable of voting and should not be allowed to vote.

Voting requires more than physically walking/going into a polling place. Getting a photo ID should be something that is expected if a person wants to vote.

The real problem we have with this photo ID debate is that it is about the wrong thing. The thing we should be debating is what qualifications should a person have in order to register to vote. And it should be much more substantial than getting proper identification although that should be included in the requirements. We think you should also demonstrate that you know enough civics to qualify you to vote.

We require people to demonstrate a minimal level of proficiency to do many things. You have to pass a test to drive. Why should you not have to pass a test to vote?

We think the test should be the same as a person has to pass to become a naturalized American citizen. "But," they say "many people could not pass such a test so they would not be able to vote." To which we say: Right!

Voting is not a constitutional right, as some say it is. Nowhere in the constitution does it guarantee you the right to vote. Indeed, for many years you had to own property to vote. You could not vote if you were a female. The six amendments were added to prohibit discrimination against certain classifications of people in establishing voting requirements, such as race, gender, below a certain age etc. but that does not mean that every person has an absolute right to vote if they can get to the polls or secure an absentee ballot. All it means is that you can't prohibit voting for certain reasons. But identity is not one of the prohibited qualifications. Competency, administered without invidious discrimination, is not a prohibited qualification. We ought to require a minimal level of demonstrated competency.

Let's be real about this. Not everyone should be allowed to vote. If you say that a person should be 18 years old, but then accept that a person with a mental age of 5 can vote it seems to us you've jumped the track in your reasoning. Why have a minimum chronological age? Think about it. Why not let five year olds vote? Should a person who pays no income taxes be allowed to vote. If so, why? If you say they should be allowed to vote, why should they not be allowed to walk into a stockholders' meeting of any corporation and vote? Why should they not be allowed to walk into a homeowners' association meeting and vote even though they are not a homeowner? Or walk into a church and vote in a business meeting without being a member of that church? The answer is simple: They do not meet the qualifications to vote if they don't own stock or a home or are not a member qualified to vote. So why should we not have to meet qualifications to vote in an election?

The idea that "some people may not be able to vote" is simply not justification for allowing unqualified people to vote. And being qualified means at least being who you say you are. Identity is a rational qualification. And the most efficient way to determine identity at that table with people waiting their turn behind you is to show a photo ID card.

Governor McCrory and all of the members of the General Assembly need to buck up and simply mandate that each voter prove who they are if they want to vote, not only to register but when they present themselves at the polls to actually vote. It is not too much to ask for such an important privilege.

But then we all know this debate is not about voting. It is about getting elected…for certain people.

Click here to go the Associated Press' Gary Robertson's overview of the issue and politics of photo ID in North Carolina.

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