In a zeal to lock unregistered voters from reaching the polling booth, we’re making Election Day resemble a hell trip to the DMV.
Some states have gone off the deep end of disenfranchisement, imposing strict photo ID requirements. A new study indicates thousands of people in the strictest states lack the necessary ID, live more than 10 miles from a government office that issues a valid ID, and lack transportation to the office. Lawsuits have been filed challenging some of these laws as a violation of the Voting Rights Act, but still the 2012 general election will be a daunting gauntlet for many unsuspecting citizens.
Utah has enacted ID requirements but they’re not as onerous as those in dozens of other states. Here are the Utah rules:
A voter shall present valid voter identification to one of the poll workers.
Current valid UT driver’s license
Current valid identification card issued by the state or federal government
UT concealed weapon permit
Current valid U.S. military ID card
Bureau of Indian Affairs card
Tribal treaty card
Tribal ID card
Two forms of ID that bear the name of the voter and provide evidence that the voter resides in the precinct
The most vocal critics brand the ID crackdowns across the nation as an effort by conservative legislatures to suppress the vote by minorities and the poor — the two groups most likely to have any ID hurdles. Supporters demand strict legislation is vital to prevent large-scale voter fraud.
In practice, it’s almost insulting to require that people who’ve been registered to vote for decades are now being required to show their papers. Forget your driver’s license and you’re sent away or made to fill out a provisional ballot, which requires a trip within a few days to the clerk’s office with your proof.
While queuing to vote in the primary election last month, I was mortified to observe what happened to an older man in a wheelchair. The poll workers asked him for government-issued picture ID, hopefully a driver’s license. “I don’t drive,” he said, pointing to his legs. Far from a sinister figure, the guy probably was just there to vote for Sen. Orrin Hatch for the 20th time. But our increasingly paranoid world of red tape, in search of a bogeyman under every rock, put him off on the hassle and denial track.
People keep hollering that their freedom’s being taken away and we’re headed toward dictatorship. If they want to stay free and stop dictators, fighting for easy access to the voting booth would be a good place to start.