If you’re a Texan, you should read this (and also if you’re not)

Texas recently passed a law requiring voters to adhere to various requirements to vote, one being a photo ID requirement to vote. The law, SB14, is very strict compared to other states (student ID is not allowed), and is aimed at solving a problem that does not exist.

I’ve done some research on this because I was a little upset about this choice by my legislature. You see, I send a lot of my time correcting Yankee stereotypes about Texas and its culture, and Texas has made a lot of progress on a lot of fronts, but this sort of thing does not make my job any easier.

I’m not a cynic about politics: I think it can work and I think legislators care about the votes they cast and are not conniving bastards. So, I’m writing this to make a reasoned, and somewhat optimistic request that others who like Texas at least take a look at this. (If you went to St. Mark’s, know this: Dan Branch voted for and SPONSORED this bill. I sent him a letter expressing my dissatisfaction with this vote and perhaps you will too. His constituency site is attached below).

The issue is this: many students, minorities and old people don’t have photo IDs. “Ok” you say, “go get one.” What’s the big deal? Well, nothing really except that there is a small fee and if you think about how busy your own life is and how NOT likely you are to do small bureaucratic things that don’t really benefit you in any obvious way, you should be able to sympathize with the idea that for someone who is poverty or old, or just ignorant about this change (as many young people and minorities are) then you are going to be out of luck on election day. Remember, not many people vote, so we want the barriers to voting to be LOW so that we get elections that are representative of our national character and judgments.

Maybe your response to this is something like “But how can we prevent voter fraud?” and that’s a fair point. The answer though is that individual voter fraud (voting under multiple names multiple times) just does not exist and in any case does not have a big impact when it does. If you don’t believe me, you can read about two VERY comprehensive reports on the phenomenon (here and here). This makes sense when you think about it. Who cares enough to vote multiple times in a single day, and even if they ran to every polling place as fast as they can, such a person might be able to generate at most something like an extra 20 votes. By contrast, adding hurdles to the process could prevent something like thousands of people from getting their fair vote in. Even the ACORN scandal a while back was, if you think it was really that bad at all (subsequent reports have shown that this episode of fraud was minor), just about fraudulent voter REGISTRATION, and most of the people fraudulently registered in this way don’t show up to vote.

So anyway, I wrote the following letter to my representative, Dan Branch, in an effort to just politely register my belief that SB14 was an error. His constituency site is here.

Further reading on this is here, here and here.

Here’s a hilariously bad and non-sequitur op-ed from the WSJ trying to defend these laws. The argument basically asserts “these voter ID laws are not as bad a Jim Crow.” Ok fine, I didn’t want to bring Jim Crow into this and I agree its not as bad as Jim Crow, but SO WHAT. If the law is net bad, then we shouldn’t have it. Case closed. There are also comparison to other places in society where IDs are called for, like at the airport, but the purpose there is completely and and obviously different (security, and also helping revenue for airlines by preventing people from transferring their tickets to other people). So this op-ed turns out to be one of the worst I’ve read.





1 Response to “If you’re a Texan, you should read this (and also if you’re not)”

  1. 1 Chris Irwin
    June 27, 2011 at 4:22 am

    Yea I was not a fan of this. The argument I keep hearing by proponents is that it will curb illegal immigrants from voting, and inadvertently help the republican party.

    Voter fraud is almost non-existent. This law will merely prevent law-abiding individuals from voting.

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