Predictably, there has been a great hue and cry about voter ID laws:
Democrats say the changes have little to do with fraud prevention and more to do with placing obstacles in the way of possible Democratic voters, including young people and minorities.
Speaking only for myself, I believe nobody should be allowed to set foot inside the voting booth without first producing a valid ID. This is a concern now more than in the past because nowadays elections more and more seem turn on razor thin margins. But Ike Brannon, director of economic and congressional relations for the American Action Forum, is making an argument that requiring IDs for voting may actually benefit young people and minorities. Bannon writes:
[S]ome perspective is in order: for people who do not have ready access to any identification, not being able to vote is the least of their problems. What’s more, requiring these folks get a valid government ID may bring them greater benefits than would accrue to them merely by being eligible to vote.
Not having valid identification forecloses options that many would deem necessary to engage in commerce of nearly every sort: it prevents someone from driving, at least legally, and precludes flying. Getting a bank account is difficult without some form of valid ID; even most check cashing and payday loan companies require a driver’s license before extending credit. And, perhaps most importantly, federal law requires an employer to complete form I-9 before putting a worker on payroll, to prove that he has the legal right to work in this country, and that necessitates some form of government ID.
In other words, someone who does not have a driver’s license or government ID card (which must be provided for free by the state, according to federal law) is deeply disadvantaged in the workaday world we live in. Someone who can’t legally work, drive, have a bank account, or obtain credit has severely misplaced priorities if he’s worried about voting.
Why not work instead to help ID-less people obtain identification? That would be the beginning of participating in society. It could be a first step in developing stabilizing habits, in much the same way learning to manage a bank account can help people learn more about how to better manage their overall lives. Thus getting an ID can become a good first step towards becoming a voter. Brannon notes:
Helping someone register to vote when he lacks an ID is a misplaced allocation of charitable effort, akin to making sure the homeless are moisturizing their skin. I doubt it’s what Republican legislatures had in mind when they passed voter registration laws, but cutting off the easy route to voter registration may prove to be a genuine boon for those on the fringes of society. Democrats should walk the walk and help these people get IDs; Republicans should do likewise and support such efforts.
So here is an idea: Get an ID and then register to vote.