Can I See Your ID?

Anne Martens

The Carter Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform just came out with it's final report on "Building Confidence in U.S. Elections," - recommending that voting rights be tied to one's ability to drive and/or purchase a government issued ID card (unless States are suddenly feeling generous enough to give 'em away). This is by far the most controversial proposition in the report, and the reasons given are that (1) people move alot, (2) we have to show ID for other stuff, and (3) if we're going to pander to Democrats on voter-verified paper trails, then we have to hand the Republicans something too.

Carter Baker Commission Recommendation 2.5.1:

To ensure that persons presenting themselves at the polling place are the ones on the registration list, the Commission recommends that states require voters to use the REAL ID card, which was mandated in a law signed by the President in May 2005. The card includes a person’s full legal name, date of birth, signature (captured as a digital image), a photograph, and the person’s Social Security number. This card should be modestly adapted for voting purposes to indicate on the front or back whether the individual is a U.S. citizen. States should provide an EAC-template ID with a photo to non-drivers free of charge.

The Brennan Center for Justice has a vigorous dissent,

This ID requirement is purportedly intended to prevent “voter fraud,” and yet the Report itself concedes that “[t]here is no evidence of extensive fraud in U.S. elections or of multiple voting” before asserting, without any meaningful support, that “both occur.” As discussed at length below, the forms of fraud that could be prevented by voter ID are exceedingly rare and risky. In contrast, compelling evidence shows that the Real ID proposal will disenfranchise countless eligible voters. Rather than analyzing the empirical data to assess whether its recommendations are sensible, however, Section 2.5 of the Report begins and ends with anecdote and supposition.

as does Commissioner Spencer Overton,

The Commission's ID proposal would exclude Americans of all backgrounds, but the poor, the disabled, the elderly, students, and people of color would bear the greatest burden. According to the Georgia chapter of AARP, 36% of Georgians over age 75 do not have a drivers' license. In the United States, more than 3 million people with disabilities do not have identification issued by the government. A June 2005 study in Wisconsin found that the rate of driver's license possession among African Americans was half that for whites, and that only 22% of black males age 18 to 24 had a driver's license. The lack of government-issued photo ID is particularly acute among Native Americans, some of whom have religious objections to photo ID.

People smarter than I are talking about this so here are some links:

MSM coverage: Washington Post; Reuters.
Blogosphere coverage here, here and here.

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    Anne, Thanks for listing my site, although I like this link better: Also, my research on vote by mail (thanks to John Lindback, John Kauffman, and the many county elections officials who helped with us) is included in the Carter/Baker report. Ironically, I think I contributed to part of the controversy, since the CB report endorses signature checks for absentee ballots--apparently I convinced them of the quality of Oregon's system--while requiring REAL ids for in-person votes.

    It is a tough issue. It is an easy sell to the general population: why shouldn't someone have to show a valid ID in order to vote? I think you'll find that the election reform community is generally in favor of that principle, but the practice is the problem.

    Are "REAL" Id's going to be free? What about the documents needed to get the REAL Id? Are we ready (has this country EVER been ready) for a federal government issued identification card?

    But with mobility patterns and perceived or real distrust in the election system, don't we have to secure the ballot box somehow?

    Tough issues.

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