Can I See Your ID?
By Patrick F. Cannon
Now that folks are traveling again, I’m sure they’ll make sure they have a photo ID before they go to the airport. If they don’t, they aren’t likely to be permitted to get anywhere near a departure gate. And if they drive to the airport, they are well advised to have their driver’s license handy. How about cashing a check, even at your own bank? Do it on faith, do they?
Why then is requiring you to have a government issued ID card when you go to vote considered “voter suppression?” In Illinois, where I vote, you have to be registered to vote, but not show an ID, only sign your name. What is the likelihood that your signature is compared to some ancient record (I’ve been registered to vote continuously for more than 50 years)? Nevertheless, the chances that Illinois will change its voting laws to require an ID are slim and none.
It comes as a surprise to some people, but there are no uniform voting laws in this country. Although Congress could do so for Federal elections, they never have. They should, although the Voting Rights Act of 1965 did ban literacy tests, poll taxes and other barriers to voting. Although I believe IDs should be required for all local and state elections as well, I’m not sure the courts would uphold a federal law mandating this.
Another surprise for the Democrats who think IDs are a method of voter suppression: in Europe, only the UK doesn’t require an ID to vote, and a law to require it is pending there. Our neighbors to the north – Canada as you might recall – also require a form of identification.
What kind of ID should be required? To begin with, the majority of the voting age population in this country have a driver’s licenses. In Illinois, you can also easily get a state-issued identification card. A valid passport should also suffice, as would a military ID. I’m sure there are others that would be acceptable.
I’m afraid I also believe that citizens should be required to vote in person, unless they are going to be out of town or physically unable to do so. Absentee ballots have always been available for these reasons. In addition, in Illinois, many jurisdictions permit people to vote in person for a specified period before election day. I have done this twice, when I knew I would be traveling on election day. Why, all of a sudden, are people thought incapable of finding a polling place?
(By the way, I think legally-resident non-citizens should be able to vote. I think “no taxation without representation” is just as valid today as it was in 1775.)
I’m not naïve enough to think that some Republican state legislatures aren’t doing their best to make it harder for Democrats to vote; but then Democrats are making it easier when they can. I thought I would check one Republican state to see how their requirement for an ID works. How about big bad Texas?
In Longhorn Land, acceptable IDs include: driver’s license; election ID certificate; Texas personal ID card; Texas handgun license (of course); US citizenship certificate; US Miliary ID; or US Passport. What if you don’t have any of these? You may then qualify for a Reasonable Impediment Declaration (!) with one of the following: certified birth certificate; current utility bill; bank statement; government check; paycheck; or another government document with your name and address.
The bottom line for me is this – if you really want to vote, you can. But I do want to know that you are who you say you are. Excuse me for not being willing to take your word for it.
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon