It’s Never That Simple

I recently dipped back into Howard Zinn’s “People’s History,” mostly to remind myself that the past was just as messy and unpredictable–and unfair and inequitable–as the multiple things that drive me bonkers today, and also to remind myself that frequently, “good guys” won and made life better for lots of the previously downtrodden.

During his description of the chaotic time leading up to the American Revolution, Zinn shared a quote from Thomas Paine that I didn’t remember seeing previously:

There is an extent of riches, as well as an extreme of poverty, which, by harrowing the circles of a man’s acquaintance, lessens his opportunities of general knowledge.

Paine was pointing to the phenomenon that today’s commentators call “living in a bubble”–something most of us do. It is very difficult to genuinely interact with people outside our circles: city folks rarely mingle with rural ones, or professionals with people in the trades or those performing more menial tasks. We may encounter people outside our bubbles, but encounters are not relationships; they aren’t “circles.”

I thought about that quotation, and the undeniable reality it reflects, when I read “The Myth that Everyone has an ID,” published at a site called “Civic Nebraska.”

The lede was essentially a restatement of Paine’s admonition:

The reality is, we don’t all live the same life. We don’t all have the same experiences. And we have to take that into account. We should make sure all voices are heard, and that the laws we put in place don’t cut people out, or make them second-class citizens. It’s our job to encourage them and protect them.”

That comes from our video Gavin’s Story: The Hidden Harm of Voter ID, and at the end of the day, it really is the central reason to not force Nebraskans into strict photo identification requirements at the ballot box. Despite the conventional wisdom and the assumption that everyone has a “proper ID,” the fact is that many Nebraskans don’t. This is true for any number of reasons; regardless, it’s never as simple as proponents of such strict identification measures make it out to be.

The article proceeded to look at the numbers and draw some unsettling conclusions. Given the state’s most recent population figures, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated 1,472,769 Nebraskans are of voting age.

How many of these Nebraskans already have IDs? According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, Nebraska had 1,418,301 licensed drivers who were 18 or older in 2021. That comes out to about 96 percent of voting-age Nebraskans. This sounds like “almost everyone,” until you consider what that represents in terms of individual people left behind by an unnecessary law. By our estimate, that could be as many as 54,500 potential Nebraska voters.

As the writer says, that’s not nothing.

It represents a lot of Nebraska voters – especially college students, low-income voters, disabled voters, rural voters, or any eligible voter who for whatever reason is without government-issued photo identification. These are our neighbors, friends, family, co-workers.

By the way, that’s a conservative number. It assumes people over 18 with learner’s permits, which allow a person to legally practice driving before applying for their driver’s license, are valid ID-holders. Throw those out for any reason, and the number of Nebraskans potentially without valid ID to vote is nearly 70,000. And, of course, this doesn’t include the untold number of Nebraskans who have state-issued IDs but who may have changed their name, address, or other feature in their life, likely rendering their currently held licenses invalid to vote.

The simple answer, of course, is to give everyone a free ID. As the article points out, “It’s a fine idea that will cost millions. Every year. Forever.” Given the overwhelming amount of research showing that in-person vote fraud is somewhere between minuscule and non-existent, that’s money that could be better spent elsewhere.( I’d suggest diverting it to accurate–i.e., non-Florida–civics education.)

These voter ID laws are widely approved by people whose “circles” all have IDs–people who find it difficult to understand why anyone wouldn’t have such documentation, and thus don’t consider the requirement to be a genuine impediment to voting.

Of course, those voter ID requirements are also strongly endorsed by Republicans, who are quite aware that the bulk of the people they are disenfranchising–college students, low-income voters, disabled voters–are disproportionately likely to cast a Democratic vote.

Thomas Paine was onto something….


  1. Paine lived during an “enlightened” period for those times. They still produced an oligarchy for themselves – “he who hath the gold makes the rules.”

    “We the people” is an ideal that almost manifested before FDR and will need to come again to save this country from outright self-destruction.

    For those on Twitter, Zuckerberg admitted to Joe Rogan that he used his algorithm to filter out Hunter Biden’s laptop story before the 2020 election at the government’s behest. Oops!

    However, many people won’t hear that story because they are too busy grieving over the poor receiving a tiny bite out of their student debt.

    Strange times.

  2. I’m not aware of any state that requires photo ID to vote which doesn’t also provide a free ID upon request. Indiana certainly does. My elderly mother got one. It cost her $0. Not even a penny for processing.

    Democrats need to give up fighting photo ID to vote. It’s supported by like 80% of the population including most Democrats. And it has not led to a decrease in turnout. (I’ve gone over turnout comparisons before and won’t repeat that here.) Does anyone seriously believe we should go back to Indiana’s former system of signature comparison as a way of IDing voters? It was a joke. By the way, as a manager of a title insurance agency, I see signatures all the time. Do you know children aren’t being taught cursive in many school districts.? When those young people go to a closing and are asked to sign their name, they just make an illegible mark as their signature. Their not actually signing their name.

    Instead what Democrats should do is have a legitimate debate over what types of photo IDs are acceptable. For example, if I’m attending Butler University, why can’t I use my student ID for voting? Requiring a government ID may not disenfranchise more than a handful of people but it at the very least inconveniences people unnecessarily. And why not give people an affidavit option if they don’t have the required ID on them? Democrats should fight for that instead of remaining stuck on the silly notion that people should be able to vote without a photo ID.

    As a side note, I was in the federal court building when Indiana’s photo ID case was heard. I was nearby when people were being screened for entry. Everyone entering that building, including the attorneys and all the spectators, had to produce a photo ID or they were turned away.

  3. And then there’s Alabama. Alabama has had a voter ID law for years now. After they passed the bill, the state began closing DMV offices in Black areas, leaving many counties without an office to provide those IDs. Well, just hop in the car and go to the next county, right? Not so easy when you don’t have a car or a birth certificate. I suspect that, if we went into rural parts of the Appalachians or other remote areas, we would still find people without birth certificates. Births were noted in the family Bible as late as the 1950s, and possibly later.

  4. The argument between Democrats and Republicans regarding photo ID is one of the most senseless on the long list of disagreements between the two parties. Whether showing ID to vote or to use credit or debit cards or writing checks, as well as receiving medical care; it is the best form of protection for each of us. The argument probably continues just for the sake of arguing between the two parties. Because no ID was required of the 27 year old get-away driver for my mugger; she used my two credit cards to charge my accounts with many hundreds of dollars in merchandise and cash in 2 – 3 hours. The signature is claimed to be what is “proof” of identity but signing that awkward angled screen with the metal pointy thing or often your finger, there is little similarity to the signature on the card. It took from April to August to clear my credit rating because NO ID was required by any business the went to. My daughter-in-law needed new truck tires; I loaned her my VISA and she signed my name which was immediately accepted with no question for proof of her ID.

    Regarding Republicans requiring photo ID is driving people to vote for Democrats is ridiculous; we have delved into the fact on this blog that Republicans will vote for anything claiming to be Republican because that is what Republicans do. That is how Trump is keeping those who disagree with him giving him their full support regardless of their lip service to preserve democracy.

  5. For JoAnn. I once signed my name as Abraham Lincoln on a check and the clerk never batted an eye. They cashed the check of course.

  6. i grew up physically at a young age,at 12 i was 5’6″living across the river from NYC and the nite life,i was a avid music nut. i stood in line many a night (1960s)at the fillmore and appollo. lookin the part of 16,minimum age. never had a i.d. until i joined the navy at 17.though i wasnt a bar goer,never tried to buy a drink even in 18 age states. ive met a few senior people who went until retirement before they got a i.d. due,gov wants to know,before soc security was sent. getting a i.d. back when being born in house was the norm,or in counties that never seen you til you were walking around in jeans. then it wasnt on anyones mind,they all knew you. traveling back when,people respected your person, they didnt ask for a i.d. today when asked,you.ll wind up,in jail if you dont produce a ID,gestapo style. maybe get your head beat in if you question them. seems the law (police,jaws etc.) is the most intollerant of the species. take up their time when they pull you over or just want to know,and find out how a simple stop turns into a nitemare. better yet, when they question you,ask for probable cause why they stopped you,i got shoved into a wall by two cops once when i said that,with a smile on my face when i said it. i was not doing a damn thing above any law. that ID question has kickbacks,dont have one,the cop use it as your immediatly hiding something,even grandma. (this seems like a guetapo like tactic to make you get one)seems you cant function in this country without being listed threeways on social media,or by goverment want to knows. i retain a CDL<license,with every endorcement except school bus,(never will happen) a TWIC card, a fbi back ground check to allow me into sensitive areas,like harbors and airport security areas to take my truck into. but its useless for boarding aircraft to fly. (go figure)now im required to be passed into system that when i got the realID,after all the questions etc, that site sent me to a online store to buy something..
    really, had to think about that one, maybe they had trump coins for sale?

  7. signed a payroll check T Jefferson once,at a payroll cashing place,likewise,they looked at my drivers lic,and handed me the cash.

  8. heres what i do on my credit cards,dont sign them , make a happy face and put C I.D.
    though it doesnt make it perfect,even people i deal with,will ask me for my thugshot,er ID.
    with a happy face..

  9. My brother in law has a cousin that moved from out of state to avoid an abusive husband and an eviction. She works in a low paying job and lives in a trailer in central Indiana. She let her out of state drivers license lapse, mainly because she couldn’t afford to take the time off work, or afford to pay for an Indiana drivers license. Now that he old ID has lapsed, she can’t get an Indiana ID without a ton of documentation, which includes a certified copy of her birth certificate, which sh doesn’t have, but guess what, with another $50 fee she can get from her home state, but she needs an affidavit from a Judge to prove. who she says she is before they will send it to her. Now she needs to hire a lawyer to get the affidavit and guess what, it costs money!

    There are a lot of people that don’t have an ID for one reason or another. Just because you don’t know one doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I suspect that just like Nebraska, there are tens of thousands of residents that don’t have IDs for one reason or another.

  10. if by chance,work with someone who needs to get a ID, poor is poor,and the reasons may suprise you,like simple mail, bus fare to somewhere and the cost of a certified birth certificate. many may look above this but poor is poor. mentor,and advise as needed, it may offer a lifelong friendship for a few hours of your time..but the results may help those you helped to others to the same path by just knowing how to get around the pitfalls. smiling at the gestapo while entering the voting area,pricless…..laughing at them better..

  11. I think the actual thought process should be:

    1) Should people have ID to vote? – seems reasonable. Dems should stop dying on this hill
    2) Does everyone have ID? No
    3) Since they are required, should they be provided for free? Yes
    4)Since they are required, should they be provided quickly and accurately? Yes
    5) Since they are required, should they be provided to everyone in every way possible at no cost to maximize convenience? Yes
    6) How much does it cost to provide free IDs to everyone – mobile units, physical locations, competent employees with decent pay and healthcare…etc. Millions and millions.
    7) Given the risk/reward, is it worth requiring IDs to not solve a problem that doesn’t exist? No
    8) Is there any particular voting fraud to catch and, if so, would IDs help catch it? No and No

    That’s it. SHOULD IDs for all work? Sure. Does it? No. It’s a waste of time and money that fixes no problem and costs piles of cash that could be used to fix actual problems. Mandatory IDs DONE CORRECTLY are prohibitive. So, not much reason to do it.

  12. I will make the assumption, ASSUMPTION, tht the folks who present the photo ID idea, are fully aware that many
    folks do not have a proper ID, and that those who do not are of “lesser” value.
    And then,I came to Sheila’s last sentence….
    Funny, I was at our local township library yesterday, and while browsing the non-fiction section, picked up Paine’s
    “Common Sense,” and began reading it…for the first time ever. Quite a guy, he was!
    Paul, “It all started with Regan,” is spot-on!
    “People’s History…” is quite a book!
    Sadly, given a bit more time, and a Republican legislature, and neither of these books might be available.

  13. There is an initiative in Bloomington, run by Linda Patton, working for South Central Community Action Program called Thriving Connections, formerly called Circles Out of Poverty to which me and my husband belonged that attempts this very thing: connecting poor with middle class folks.

  14. Senior citizens who no longer drive is another category of vote ID have-me-nots. My parents never missed an election, and worked at their polling place for years. When health challenges prevented their driving and that volunteerism, I took them to their local license branch to get their voter ID. They were charged $4.00 for it. I objected and said that amounted to a poll tax. The BMV employee consulted her manager who confirmed that yes, they must be charged a fee. My mother didn’t want to make a fuss and paid the fee for Dad and her. But I was livid.

    Fortunately my parents had their expired drivers licenses in their wallets, without which they would have to go to the Court House, get their birth certificates, and go home to collect a variety of utility and other documents showing they lived where they said they lived. Given their mobility challenges, that would have been a hardship. It was all we could do to get them to the BMV.

    Everyone at their polling place knew them well. They didn’t voter ID to be known as eligible voters, but the legislature, in its wisdom, enacted a statute as if everyone lives in cities where neighbors don’t know each other. I’ve often wondered how many more senior citizens don’t vote because they don’t have anyone to get them to the BMV and see that all their bases are covered for voter eligibility and for voting.

    To this day, I’m angry that my parents needed a voter ID and that the local BMV charged them for it.

  15. As Thomas Paine was an Angelican, he was familiar with biblical teachings. And, his father was a Quaker.

    He saw the hypocrisy, even then, there was a vast inequity between those that had and those that had not.

    Thomas Paine had written 16 individual letters signed common sense, and those papers were instrumental in preventing the disintegration of George Washington’s army. If it wasn’t for Thomas Paine, more than likely, Washington would not have succeeded.

    He was also known as one of the greatest propagandists of all time!

    Since Thomas Paine was dead set against constant tax increases which inordinately affected the poor, he warned the British to not get involved in a war with France because the only thing that would come of it, was more taxation. And of course excess taxation sparked the beginnings of the American revolution.

    Thomas Paine did everything he could to prevent a more destabilizing war in Europe after the French revolution. His books, The rights of man and Rights of Man part 2 were widely read in the United States even though they were written in Europe.

    Thomas Paine was considered a Deist by himself and others, he also stated that he “believed in one God and no more!” He despised organized religion for the permissive attitude towards slavery and all of the wars that were promoted in the name of god! Also, he was very disagreeable towards all of the miracles that the churches claimed while promoting their particular saints.

    He was truly a man ahead of his time! Too bad his name was slandered for 150 years.

  16. New Jersey voters don’t show ID. We just sign in – and no, poll workers don’t signature match either. It’s quick and easy and our elections are just as secure as other states’ because as studies have demonstrated time and again, voter fraud doesn’t exist.

    Remember, voter ID is relatively new. Ten years ago requiring ID was usually flagged as violating the VRA (Indiana…). Only after SCOTUS nixed preclearance did the states rush to require IDs. It mostly started in the states previously covered by section 5. Those states rushed to enact the ID laws that were previously declared in violation. Unfortunately non-covered states soon followed this suppressive trend and now we’re sadly at the point where we not only think ID is normal, but actually needed.

  17. As a native Nebraskan (though I haven’t lived there for 50 years), I’m glad to read someone speaking against voter id. Unfortunately, despite the wording in the state constitution, I’m sure he is fighting a losing battle. When I was a kid, Nebraska was a conservative state, but not reactionary. Today it is blood red. I am grateful I no longer have any reason to return.

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