Voter ID Laws

Kennon-Green & Co. Fiduciary Financial Advisor, Wealth Management, Global Value Investing

Voting is a big deal.  In countries that have lived under brutal dictatorships, people will die for the opportunity to vote, defying militants to take to the street and cast their ballot.  I love the act of voting.  I’m one of those “have you voted?” people, constantly harping on people on election day to stop what they are doing and go take advantage of one of the greatest civil rights they enjoy.  I’m amazed that every two years, on a rolling basis, the United States population bloodlessly and democratically overthrows its government, the result of a long line of reforms going back thousands of years to protect us against the tyranny our ancestors suffered on a regular basis, from the shores of England to the villages of Ancient China.  

[mainbodyad]I’m such a fan of voting that during the last President election, one of my sisters hadn’t had a chance to make it to the polls.  A winter advisory warning was issued, snow and sleet started to fall from skies, it was bitterly cold, and the weather forecasters warned people not to drive.  The idea of her not voting in a major election bothered me so much that I got into my car, drove five miles an hours through the wintery mix, and took her to her polling place.

Any time you look at general polls on the popularity of voter identification laws, which require nothing more than showing a valid government-issued photo I.D. before casting a ballot to prove that you are who you say you are, the results show that somewhere between 70 and 80 out of every 100 Americans favor the laws.  

A List of Things That Require Government Issued Identification

It isn’t hard to see the reason.  Voting is far more important than most other activities, yet you need government issued identification if you are:

  • Receiving Medicare or Medicaid benefits
  • Receiving Social Security benefits
  • Receiving food stamps
  • Entering a bar
  • Selling merchandise to a pawn shop
  • Checking out a library book
  • Boarding an airplane
  • Buying a gun
  • Donating blood
  • Opening a bank account
  • Writing a check at a retailer
  • Cashing a paycheck
  • Driving a car or motorcycle
  • Purchasing a vehicle
  • Buying cigarettes or chewing tobacco
  • Buying alcohol
  • Purchasing a home
  • Renting an apartment
  • Applying for a business license
  • Serving jury duty
  • Receiving prescription medicine
  • Applying for a hunting license
  • Applying for a fishing license
  • Establishing a retirement plan
  • Buying over the counter medicine with pseudoephedrine such as Sudafed or Claritin-D
  • Any cash transaction greater than $5,000
  • Entering a casino or stand on the gaming floor and observe
  • Applying for a passport
  • Enrolling in school
  • Opening a post office box
  • Picking up a package from the post office, UPS, or FedEx
  • Applying for a marriage license
  • Applying for a loan or other financing

That is why I find it so patently offensive and intellectually dishonest when a handful of the political establishment vehemently opposes common sense initiatives like voter I.D. laws.  The idea that someone can’t take the time to get an $11 identification card (which, even if you were the absolute poorest of the poor, single, elderly, and surviving on government benefits would represent less than 0.10% of your annual income for one year and has no expiration date and is necessary for all the other things we already mentioned).  

Congress Could Solve the Voter I.D. Requirements Easily with a Free Program

If you are concerned that an $11 fee to acquire voter I.D. for those who don’t have a driver’s license still violates the 24th amendment to the United States Constitution, which states among other things, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”, you could always have Congress pass a law providing a minuscule amount of funding for free government issued photo identification or voter cards.  The odds are good such a program would cost less than a single pet project of a representative.  Given the overwhelming popularity of the voter I.D. requirements with the public, most districts would support such a plan.

Voter ID LawsBottom line: Voter I.D. laws do not disenfranchise the rights of United States citizens, they are a safeguard to prove that a person is entitled to those rights.  The idea that proving you are a member of the country to take advantage of one of the most important rights the country offers is somehow a burden is patently offensive.  Equating them to the evil poll taxes of the 19th century is an insult to memory of the people who had to live through that kind of discrimination.

As someone who has voted for candidates from both major parties, if you want to see an example of something people should be really upset about, look to Ohio.  Right now, certain far right-wing elected officials are attempting to manipulate polling place hours in liberal districts so that it becomes very difficult for working adults to make it to the booth, potentially swinging the state.  That is a direct affront to a democratic republic.  I want all districts, liberal, conservative, or moderate, to reflect the will and desires of the voters.  That is what makes the nation great.  

Let’s be honest: The far left doesn’t like the voter I.D. laws because it may cause them to lose a few votes.  The ends do not justify the means.  I’d rather my side in a particular issue lose an election honestly than win dishonestly.  Not everyone feels that way.  There are grown men who will cheat so their child’s Little League team gets a better score.  It’s an asinine, weak way to behave.