But Isn’t It All About Voter Fraud??

Yesterday, a Facebook friend who lives in Pittsburgh posted a story from the Pittsburgh Gazette about Sophie Maslow, the city’s feisty former Mayor. Now in her nineties, Maslow is anxiously awaiting the Pennsylvania court’s ruling on the state’s new voter ID law–turns out that if it is upheld, she will be unable to vote for the first time in her adult life.

As she says, when she could no longer drive, she cut up her driver’s license. Her passport is expired. She plans to go to a license branch to get a photo ID if the law is upheld, but is worried by her neighbor’s reports of long lines and confusion.

In Indiana, shortly after a federal court upheld our version of the voter ID law, a group of elderly nuns in South Bend was turned away from the polls for lack of  suitable identification.

Of course, it’s all for a good cause–the sanctity of the vote. A couple of weeks ago, a letter to the editor chastised critics of the new voter ID laws. They are necessary, the letter-writer insisted. He then recounted a recent example of fraud, a widely reported instance of a woman who had voted in two states. The problem with that example is that the voter ID laws would do nothing to prevent that particular type of behavior. Most simply require a government-issued identification that is current and has a photo. They don’t require proof of residence. A current passport can take you on vacation–or to polling places in more than one state. (The letter writer didn’t explain how the “fraudster” managed to get registered and on the voter rolls in multiple locations, but for argument’s sake, I’ll assume it’s possible.)

A number of credible sources have documented the extremely small number of instances in which there has been actual voting fraud. Furthermore, where it has occurred, it has overwhelmingly been in the process of absentee balloting, not in-person voting, and these laws do nothing about absentee voting.

It is easy to shrug off the burden these measures impose on the elderly and the poor. I have well-meaning friends who shrug off the requirements by pointing out that “everyone” has a photo ID these days. “How can you cash a check or board a plane without one?” They simply cannot picture (no pun intended) people for whom bank accounts and air travel are foreign experiences. They don’t know anyone personally who does not possess a birth certificate–although the lack of that document (necessary in order to obtain a voter ID) is fairly common among elderly and African-American folks who were born in rural areas.

As Sarah Silverman says, in a foul-mouthed but funny  You Tube that is making the rounds on the web, these laws cleverly target four demographics: the elderly, blacks, students and the poor.  I wonder what those demographics have in common….

Oh yeah. Sophie Maslow is a Democrat.


  1. My husband is one of those who felt it wasn’t that big a deal to get a photo ID, and that people who wanted to vote should just obtain one. Then we had dinner with a woman and her 101-year-old-mother who had just moved to Indiana. The mother was sharp as a tack. She told wonderful stories of meeting Eleanor Roosevelt and of her years spent hiring teachers in a district known for its terrific educational system. She had her birth certificate and tons of other validating info, including her husband’s social security death benefits, but couldn’t find her marriage license proving her current name. (They had written every place they could think of.) She could not obtain a voter ID. I haven’t heard that argument from my husband since.

  2. Even Charlie White, (R) Secretary of State for Indiana had an ID to vote in 2010; fraudulently. Didn’t stop him from voting which is why this whole Voter ID fraud thing is so ridiculous.

  3. My granddaughter recently applied on line for voter registration after moving from Bloomington to Indianapolis; she is waiting for her registration card. Probably having been registered in Bloomington allowed this but I see ads offering on line sites to register, no idea what their requirements are. I, too, initially believed it was a simple procedure to get photo ID and didn’t understand why people don’t have one. My friend pointed out there are millions of people in this country who do not drive and have never needed a drivers license which seems to be the nationally accepted photo ID. If states require photo ID they should provide easy access – and low cost – to obtain them. I have had mine so long I don’t remember what requirments, if any, I had to meet. I do know that I feel safer when asked for my drivers license with photo when cashing a check or using my charge card because I view it as personal protection. I also realize I am more fortunate than many thousands in this city and state who do not drive a car, have a checking account or charge card. I lived in Florida when Bush was NOT elected; voter fraud was rampant during the election and the so-called recount. One of the worst incidents was boxes of absentee ballots received prior to election day that had been stored in closets and “found” during the recount but were dismissed because they were not received in time. Another Republican governor will move us closer to being another Florida without all that beautiful sunshine and those heavenly beaches.

  4. OK, I’m in the dark on this one. Photo ID?
    The only Photo ID that I can think of that confirms
    US Citizenship is a US Passport.
    Will this resurrect the idea of a National ID showing?
    either citizen or resident status?

    Does another form of Photo ID exist that confirms

  5. G “Red-George” O’malley :
    OK, I’m in the dark on this one. Photo ID?
    The only Photo ID that I can think of that confirms
    US Citizenship is a US Passport.
    Will this resurrect the idea of a National ID showing?
    either citizen or resident status?
    Does another form of Photo ID exist that confirms

    Yes, naturalization papers for new citizens shows name, photo and date of citizenship. And you are correct, only the passport verifies citizenship, not a driver’s license.

  6. It needs to be remembered that the purpose of having some form of ID (photo or otherwise), is that the person voting is really the same person appearing on the registration rolls…..or is simply the person they purport to be. That is NOT the same question as whether the person voting (or the person that individual purports to be) is a citizen.

  7. The great majority of people that are being inhibited by this process are not newly naturalized citizens. They are “Born in the USA” and possess no photo credential that proves citizenship.

    Many people have a driving license, which has a photo on it. It also has a record of the holder’s address, which (as previously pointed out) may allude that it is the same person appearing on the registration rolls. However, what benchmark does the administrating authority refer too when doubt exists.

  8. Of course it is about voter fraud – of the Jim Crow variety.

    If you need to obtain a birth certificate and maybe a marriage license, you have to pay for it — that’s a poll tax!

    Then what – well, I had a cousin, who never drove, whose name appeared as “baby girl” on her birth certificate. Would that pass?

    My grandmother, a naturalized citizen, spelled her maiden name three different ways on different official documents. Then there was her first name. It started as something like Baylah, then became Becky, then Rebecca, Becky again and finally Betty — each (except the original) appearing on different official documents. I wonder if the Republican Party in Dade County, Florida would challenge her is she were alive today?

    Yup, it’s no big deal — just about voter fraud.

  9. I do not drive. To vote, I had to get a registered copy of my birth certificate. That cost $28. Then I had to get an Indiana ID, which cost $6. When my ID card expires (it’s valid for the same amount of time a driver’s license is) I have to pay a fee for a new card. To date, I’ve had to pay $40 to vote in Indiana. Poll taxes are illegal but I’ve had to pay them just the same. What about the citizens who have a constitutional right to vote, but who can’t afford these fees? This is what’s wrong with Indiana’s voter ID law.

  10. My parents worked the polls for decades, but when they became too infirm to drive, going to get voter ID was very difficult for them physically. One was in a wheelchair; the other had balance and vision problems, and someone else had to take them to the BMV. Had they not brought their former drivers’ licenses with them, they’d have had to go to the Court House, purchase birth certificates, and proven their residency. Ultimately they had to vote absentee but they painfully went to the polls as long as possible because they knew of many absentee ballots disqualified for technical reasons.

    The push for voter ID laws began when George W. Bush was pushing to privatize Social Security. I wondered then if voter ID was a purposeful way to prevent seniors from voting to protect their benefits which – for many – are their financial life preservers.

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