No Shirt, No Shoes, No Vote?

Today the state primaries are being held in Kansas. Today I get to exercise my greatest civic responsibility, voting. Kansas, like many other states, host closed primaries. Within this common framework of conducting primary elections, voters may only vote in their respective party’s primary. These voters must have filed their party affiliation prior to the primary election.

Now what about the independents?

By design the (registered) independents are excluded from voting in primary elections.

So is this considered voter suppression?

No, this is not considered voter suppression because the primary process is considered to be a function of the political party. The primary process is intended to allow a party to determine, by majority, the strongest candidate to put forth in the general election. Therefore, by hosting a closed primary the political party receives the most accurate feedback from the members of the party with respect to whom they feel best represents them. In an open primary, a primary in which voter party affiliation is irrespective of the primaries they may vote in, members from the rival party may cross party lines in order to cloud the message coming from the party’s primary voters. This could lead to a candidate that is less desirable (by the host political party) winning the primary based on little party support but significant support from the rival party members who crossed party lines for that specific purpose.

Well then what is voter suppression?

Voter suppression is the purposeful inhibition of voters to participate in a general election. As we have been hearing all summer long, Attorney General Eric Holder is attempting to show that the GOP is deeply involved in voter suppression by supporting the implementation of new and strengthening of existing voter ID laws. Holder has compared the voter ID laws to a poll tax. The main reasoning for implementing voter ID laws is to prevent voter fraud; voter fraud which looks something like this.

What is a poll tax?

A poll tax is an embedded cost that is levied on the voter in order to exercise the ability to vote. The poll tax may take many forms including a monetary cost, a minimum amount of owned property, being a taxpayer, etc. Historically, the implementation of a poll tax was such to stifle the ability of certain classes of Americans to vote. As a result of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s the 24th Amendment was passed declaring such;

“Section1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election 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 poll tax or other tax.”

Why are voter ID laws being rejected so vehemently by the Left?

Ah, I was hoping you’d ask. A reporter from Politico explains that “[a]t least 5 million voters, predominantly young and from minority groups sympathetic to President Barack Obama, could be affected by an unprecedented flurry of new legislation by Republican governors and GOP-led legislatures to change or restrict voting rights by Election Day 2012.” Now that figure of 5 million voters is suspicious but I’ll let the National Review discuss that point.

As of today, thirty-three states have passed voter ID laws. The extent of the identification requirements depends upon the state. For example, voters in Ohio (based on law as it stands today) must prove their identity by at the minimum by a non-photo ID. However, voters in Kansas are strictly required to present a photo ID. Meanwhile voters in Illinois are not required to show identification in order to participate. The attached graphic is from National Conference of State Legislatures and does an excellent job of explaining voter ID laws state-by-state as well as up to the date developments on voter ID laws in all states.

Now back to the claim that voter ID laws are the equivalent of a poll tax. As we’ve previously discussed, a poll tax is a burden that is levied on the individual in order to participate in the general election. States that have implemented a photographic voter ID requirement have also implemented a program for which citizens may obtain an ID free of charge. Therefore, states in which the individual is required to present photographic ID in order to vote are able to obtain one only at the cost of their time. The cost of their time seems minimal granted all the activities they are no able to participate in because they do not have a photo ID.

A photographic ID is a requirement that permeates essential aspects of our lives. To participate in the United States economy, to move about the country, and to partake in social functions of our society you are required to present a photo ID. Some instances that immediately come to mind where a photo ID is a requirement for a given activity including using a credit card or writing a check, something we can agree is a basic financial transaction in our modern society. However, prior to even exercising the ability to pay for goods or services by card or check requires that you are the holder of bank account, which you are required to present a photo ID to open.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s say you forgo all forms of credit and checks. The hypothetical ‘you’ deals exclusively in cash. How do you travel about the local community, state and country? In order to purchase auto insurance, drive a car, rent a car, ride a train, or even fly you must own a valid photo ID. Even then, these are not considered primary necessities to one’s life. The hypothetical ‘you’ could reject modern modes of travel and simply stick to your own two feet, in addition to rejecting all forms of credit and checks.

How would you spend your time? Well if you’d like visit your local library for some good reading, you need your photo ID in order to check out media. Say you’re feeling lucky and wish to entertain yourself at the casino. That’s too bad because you will need a photo ID in order to play. Living such a simple lifestyle seems exhausting to me! Giving up credit, bank accounts, modern forms of travel, and some means of entertainment seems like quite a commitment in order to live without a photo ID. A day living like this would certain end by sitting at the bar staring deeply into a tall glass of my favorite beer. Now what happens just after I put in my order? The bartender asks for my ID.

As we have just discussed, the use of a photo ID is so deeply woven into our society the challenge to live without out greatly exceeds the effort required to obtain a free photo ID. Speaking to the idea of voter suppression through the implementation and strengthening of voter ID laws, the data simply does not support the claim. As Hans A. von Spakovsky details at National Review Online “The actual turnout of Democratic and minority voters went up, not down, in Georgia and Indiana after their voter-ID laws went into effect, and those increases were larger than in many states without voter-ID laws.”

The demonization of voter ID laws is just another element of the smokescreen surrounding the incumbent president. Anything to keep you from talking about the state of the economy, the vanishing line between citizen and state, or your shortening list of civil liberties! If you’d really like to learn about voter suppression then I’d suggest you do some research on what the President is attempting to do to military servicemen (a demographic that shows very little support for the President) in Ohio (a crucial swing state). Shortening the window by which these noble men and women have to vote by three entire days; that’s real voter suppression.

Voting in local, state, and federal elections is one of the greatest exercises of freedom that we have in this country. When you visit the polls this primary season or come November, recognize how special this right is and understand that as powerful as this freedom we enjoy is, it is also delicate.

-Dean Jones