Voter suppression, not Voter ID is the big problem

Published June 10, 2021

By Thomas Mills

Here’s my unpopular opinion for the week: Democrats should concede on voter ID and work to make them as accessible as possible and to make exceptions for those who have extreme difficulty getting them. 

Republicans are using voter ID as a screen and it’s working. Of the many provisions within the voter suppression bills the GOP is pushing, voter ID is the least objectionable, most easily defensible and least damaging to outcomes. The voter suppression bills they are passing have far more dangerous provisions that are far more difficult for the Republicans passing them to defend. 

When Liz Cheney was asked about supporting GOP efforts at voter suppression, she responded, “I will never understand the resistance, for example, to voter ID.” She never addressed legislation that would allow elected or appointed bodies to overturn elections. Instead, she followed the GOP talking points that equates all voter suppression provisions as voter ID. 

 When I wrote a blog recently about the egregious law that Texas was trying to pass, Republican commenters all referenced voter ID. In the minds of too many people, voter suppression bills are identified as voter ID laws. And that’s just the way the GOP wants it.

It’s hard to make people oppose voter ID laws. They have broad support from the public because they seem to make sense. In our society, we need to offer identification for all sorts of mundane services and activities and yet we don’t ask for them at polling places. Most democracies around the world have ID requirements and they don’t seem less democratic than the US. People who don’t think too deeply about these issues have a difficult time understanding opposition to the laws. 

Democrats need to shift the focus away from identification and put it on the more offensive and undemocratic measures in these voter suppression bills. Taking voter ID off the table would force Republicans to defend far less defensible positions and take away their smokescreen. The impact on elections of allowing a partisan body to overturn an election based on bogus accusations of fraud is far more dangerous than turning away the very few people from the polls who lack identification, especially if those IDs have been made widely available or exceptions have been for certain circumstances.