Democrats & Liberals Archives

Voter ID Cards

A private commission headed by Jimmy Carter and James Baker put an election reform proposal together that includes everything Democrats have been asking for: making sure unverified voters are aware of provisional ballots, clear guidelines for updating registration lists, mandatory voter-verified paper trails and stronger certification systems for electronic ballot boxes, mandatory media access for every candidate… And then it proposes voter ID cards.

The inclusion of voter ID cards set off a mini-firestorm all across the left and the libertarian right, and as an all-knowing pundit, I should have a strong opinion on this, so it kinda bugs me that I'm fairly ambivalent.

Carter says he supports a free federal voter ID as an alternative to states like Georgia requiring residents to buy a voter ID. I can see that. On the other hand, Senator Dashle says the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) covers fraudulent registration and there's no evidence the system isn't working. And my Dad reminded me that if you vote by absentee ballot (which both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party encourage voters to do) it's pointless to have a voter ID.

So here's my dilemma: Do I support letting the states decide whether their residents must have (or buy, in the case of Georgia) a voter ID, or should the federal government issue a free voter ID card to every registered voter. Or do I oppose voter ID cards altogether and just come down on Georgia for reinstating a poll tax?

And if you like the idea of a federal voter ID card, why not just have a national ID card instead? I mean, I've had a Social Security ID since birth, and a driver's license, credit cards, and passport for most of my adult life. A national ID card that's any good would help keep out terrorists and other illegal immigrants, probably make my life easier, and I have yet to hear a good argument against it.

The Carter/Baker proposal has a bunch of really good voter reforms in it, but it also recommends a federal voter ID. If the choice is between a free federal voter ID and paying for a state voter ID, I've got to go with the Carter/Baker proposal. But frankly, I'm not convinced we need a voter ID at all, and if you think we do, why not just have a national ID card?

Posted by American Pundit at September 22, 2005 11:05 AM