As political strategist Lee Atwater said, perception is reality.
First, some numbers.
An alarming number of Americans believe that the U.S. election system is not trustworthy, according to a recent poll.
While a majority of Americans (58%) have a “great deal” or “good amount” of trust that elections are fair, nearly four in ten (39%) do not believe this. And yes, the majority of those who do not trust the system are Republicans, but that number includes Democrats and independents.
Even if their beliefs are ill-founded, we can’t simply ignore them. And the 58% of those with “great” or “good” trust is not an overwhelming percentage. I find it to be shockingly low.
Another number: 79% of Americans want photo ID, according to Gallup. That is a very large majority, twice the number of Americans with little faith in the system. That is not a number to trifle with, or ignore.
One more number: 12 states have strict voter ID requirements, with 8 of them demanding photo ID.
Voter ID seems like an idea whose time has come, and it is heading toward Pennsylvania.
I say that acknowledging that while voter fraud exists, it is minor and has never changed the result of any recent election as far as I can tell.
Bank robbery is also rare, yet every bank has closed-circuit cameras to foil thieves. Auto crashes are rare, yet the law requires seat belts must be worn. Voter ID is a safeguard, like seat belts.
You may ask why (mostly) Republicans are so intent on passing voter ID laws. Democrats say it is because they want to suppress voter turnout.
You may ask why Democrats (mostly) are so intent on stopping those laws. Republicans say it is because they want illegal votes.
Democrats say they want to make sure no one is disenfranchised, as if this were a major problem. Remember how the new “restrictive” laws in Georgia were going to suppress the Black vote, and then the opposite happened?
Was it the law of unintended consequences, or was it that the shrill shrieks of racism were baseless, and the All–Star game was moved out of Atlanta, hurting that Black city, for no damn good reason?
As an example of shrill shrieks, journalist Solomon Jones writes if voter ID comes to the Quaker State, “Democrats may never win a majority in the legislature again.” Never? Exaggerate much?
In Pennsylvania, a constitutional amendment to require photo ID has been introduced, SB 1.
This is the pertinent text:
(b) In addition to the qualifications under subsection (a) of this section, a qualified elector shall provide a valid identification at each election in accordance with the following:
1. When voting in person, the qualified elector shall present a valid identification before receiving a ballot to vote in person.
2. When not voting in person, the qualified elector shall provide proof of a valid identification with his or her ballot.
(c) If a qualified elector does not possess a valid identification, he or she shall, upon request and confirmation of identity, be furnished with a government-issued identification at no cost to the qualified elector.
(d) For purposes of this section, the term “valid identification” means an unexpired government-issued identification, unless otherwise provided for by law.
The people opposed, such as Philadelphia’s Committee of Seventy, say that valid ID presents an “unnecessary burden” on the voter, while others say it falls most heavily on the poor and minorities.
That may be why the bill requires anyone asking for one to receive a free government-issued ID.
Here’s the clincher: How many of the opponents of valid ID understand that such ID is already required to be presented the first time you vote?
Yes, already required of everyone, including the poor and minorities.
If that isn’t unconstitutional, why should it be unconstitutional to require that it be presented every time one votes? How much of a “burden” is it? I mean, really.
If you need ID to board an aircraft, or cash a check, or apply for a job, why not to vote?
If the reality is that only legitimate people are voting, that will change the perception of cheating.