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.