The New York Times Gets It Wrong On Voter ID

Pennsylvania Judge Robert Simpson just declined to issue a temporary restraining order preventing Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law from going into effect, likely ensuring that Pennsylvania voters will, in fact, have to provide picture identification when they go to the polls this November.  Today, the New York Times Editorial Board condemned the decision, arguing that the Voter ID law will disproportionately impact minorities and puts in place “barriers to full citizenship.”  The heart of the Times‘ argument is in these paragraphs:

[Judge Simpson] wrote in his ruling that requiring a government-issued photo ID card to vote “is a reasonable, nondiscriminatory, nonsevere burden when viewed in the broader context of the widespread use of photo ID in daily life,” as if voting were equivalent to buying a six-pack of beer or driving a car.

The requirement will have a disparate impact on minorities, who tend to lack government IDs at a higher rate than the general population and tend to vote Democratic. Judge Simpson acknowledged he was aware of the remark by Michael Turzai, the Pennsylvania House Republican leader, that the voter ID requirement would win the state for Mitt Romney in November. But there was no proof, he said, that other lawmakers shared that view, and, even if partisan interests were part of the motivation for the law, they are not enough to invalidate it.

There is no evidence that Judge Simpson contorted law and precedent to reach his conclusion. He even described Mr. Turzai’s comment as “disturbing” and “tendentious.” But his ruling, in a case brought by potentially disenfranchised voters, is a clear and disturbing illustration of the way Republicans have manipulated legislation for their own ends, placing a veneer of civic responsibility on a low-minded and sleazy political ploy.

The critical mistake in this argument – and the reason why moderates, independents, and voters generally are behind Voter ID laws – is perfectly encapsulated in the coda to the first paragraph quoted above.  No, voting is not “equivalent to buying a six-pack of beer or buying a car.”  Yes, it is far more important than either.

And that is precisely why rules that guard against fraud by imposing reasonable and easy to meet requirements on voters are so popular.

Let’s be honest.  It isn’t all that hard to obtain a government issued picture ID.  In Pennsylvania, anyone can get a photo ID by simply filling out a form, bringing along acceptable proofs of identification – a social security card, one of a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or passport, and (for people older than 18), two of various documents identifying your address (utility bills, lease, mortgage, etc.) – and pay a processing fee of $13.50.

Assuming you did not have a copy of your birth certificate and social security card, the additional cost would be $10 for the birth certificate.  Replacement social security cards are free.

In other words, the “barriers to full citizenship” the Times is complaining about, along with others opposed to Voter ID laws, are the time it will take to fill out a form and locate documents, and a $15 or, worst case, $25 expenditure for a document that, frankly, is a necessity of modern life in any event.

Bottom line, the requirements are not onerous.  And, in light of that, it appears as though those complaining about Voter ID laws are taking the position that it is wrong to demand even the barest level of diligence and responsibility from citizens.  The Times focuses on citizens’ rights, without paying any attention to citizens’ responsibilities.

And that’s a position that just doesn’t resonate with three-quarters of the country.

Thank God for that.

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