by Jeanne Milliken Bonds
Every poll that comes out shows North Carolinians support voter id with pretty convincing numbers. Why? It is a simple concept to grasp on a poll because the majority of people have photo identification. Some folks just cannot fathom a world without id. But the facts: there are those without ids and those without who simply don’t need an id to function in life, those who can’t afford one, those who can’t get to a place to get one. Just because the polls say “do it” doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do, the easy thing to do or a win for either Party. Easy to tweet, hard to look a constituent in the eyes and say.
What should Democrats do? It is a core value to fight for the right to vote for everyone, especially those who were denied it in the past. With an election coming in 2014, Democrats need a message to drive out voters in numbers and rally the base to enthusiasm. Is it voter id? Or do they try for the best practical solution and fight the war another day. Core organizations with Democratic values must protect people on this issue so can the Party unite on a decision on this issue?
This issue is not without pitfalls for Republicans either. They handed red-meat to their base all over the country: Voter integrity. We must prevent fraud. Everyone has an id. How can you live without an id? You can write it and say it a million times. It doesn’t make it true. The Republicans forgot to explain it to their base. There is clearly no understanding of the legal implications/complexities, costs, implementation processes or the basic fact that states enact individual voting procedures because we do not have national elections. As a Republican consultant said on twitter, “let the lawyers work it out.”
It would be in both Parties’ interests to collaborate to ensure voting integrity without disenfranchisement of anyone. Require an id, then give one to everyone. Everyone wins. No one loses.
But there is that nagging little issue of money and political winners and losers and the next election.
Regardless of whether the average Republican “fed on the read meat talking points wants to hear it or not” it is a fact that there are people without ids. A woman stood at the voter id hearing Tuesday and said “Look at all my ids. They are easy to get.” Poster child. Passports cost, drivers’ licenses and state issued ids cost, credit cards cost. I guess she never met a person in poverty, a person without means, a person who has no need for an id because their life is a simple day to day grind of getting by, a person who had to pass a test to vote, an older person depending on family and without any need for an id. She made Democrats salivate to fight.
Remember how those over 65 vote? Guess what? When they stop driving, many just don’t need ids. My Mom tossed hers when it expired. She is 83, blind, cannot drive. We use online banking (she has had an account since the 40s) for her so no check cashing. She doesn’t buy alcohol. She doesn’t go “clubbing”. She doesn’t fly. She can’t fire a gun. I have never been asked for her id by a doctor (no law) , pharmacist (no law except certain narcotics), hospital (no law), government agency. She does not need one so why should I order her birth certificate and engage a myriad of other activities to get her one? She has voted since 1947.
My position is and has always been: If you require a photo id for everyone to vote, then get everyone an id. I resent it because I have voted by signing since 1980. But, if it is really about voter integrity, invest in the same id for everyone. I guarantee anything less will then be a debate about why this person or that person gets their id for free. And that brings with it a host of challenges. Who is eligible for a free id? What will a free photo id be? What qualifies as an id?
If we impede citizen participation on voting, force ids at the polls but allow absentee without, we end up in court. If we give some a free id, make others pay for one, we end up in court.
Voter id has become a do or die for each side. Republicans fed the base so they have to produce something. Democrats are guarding their base and must fight. We cannot afford to pay for an id for everyone so if you really want to protect voter integrity and ensure no discrimination and stay out of court, if a person shows to vote without an id, you have to discern their eligibility then and let them vote. The bills have been introduced – H253, S235. The game is on, the bluff has been called. Show your cards.
Jeanne Bonds is a political analyst and an NC Spin Panelist