Identification Required
Every state should require voters to present photo ID on Election Day.


Deroy Murdock

Anyone showing up at the polls in Las Vegas pretending to be Tony Romo may be arrested. But what about someone masquerading as Tony Ross, Anthony Russo, Tommy Russell, or any number of inconspicuous names that would leave red flags furled?

Just a handful of such bogus votes can exceed the margin of victory in incredibly tight races. Two months and three recounts after the 2004 election, Democrat Christine Gregoire became Washington’s governor by beating Republican Dino Rossi in a 129-vote landslide from among 2.9 million cast. Most famously, George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000 by a whopping 537 votes in Florida. Similar squeakers this November 4 could be decided by those who have no right to cast ballots, or those whose slogan is “One Man, Many Votes.”

With the election exactly three weeks away, the hour is late to sift through all of the nation’s voter rolls and separate live voters from dead ones, citizens from aliens, the law-abiding from felons, adults from minors, and real people from those merely fabricated. This needs to be done, but is unlikely to be accomplished in time.

What could be done quickly is to require photo ID at the polls, something the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional last spring. Only seven states (Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Dakota) mandate photo ID before citizens can step into voting booths. Beyond these Sensible Seven, 17 states require ID, though it need not include a photo. The remaining 26 states demand no proof that voters are who they say they are.

Requiring photo ID, and making it available for free to any voter who needs it, is the easiest way to assure that corrupt or overzealous people do not show up and vote while ineligible or impersonate someone who has moved away, passed away, or never even existed.

Michael Bowman, senior director of policy for the American Legislative Exchange Council, notes that many statehouses are away and would have to be called back into session. In other states, this issue would fall outside the legislative branch.

“This clearly seems to be an issue that lies within the executive branch, with secretaries of state, attorneys general, and governors handling this sort of voters’ concern,” Bowman said. “Every state is different. In most states, I think the secretary of state and the attorney general should be able to speak to the integrity of the elections.”

Those who want clean elections should demand photo ID. If ACORN’s defenders want to argue for keeping America’s voting system opaque and increasingly equatorial, let’s have that debate. American voters overwhelmingly favor photo ID at the polls. Those who don’t — who mainly are on the Left — should spend the next three weeks fighting photo ID. This will prove as popular as blocking offshore oil drilling.

It would be refreshing to hear opponents of photo ID drop their Jim Crow–era rhetoric about poor and minority voters staying away from the polls for lack of ID. There are few arguments more vulgar and bigoted than the claim that black Americans (the past victims of Southern disenfranchisement) are too benighted to show up at the polls with photo ID cards. Are blacks too backward to show photo ID when boarding airplanes, riding Amtrak, enjoying discounted service on buses (for students, seniors, and the disabled), and entering many government buildings? Those who dislike photo ID should abandon this unbecoming, condescending, and maddeningly racist line of thought.

Will real voters choose our next president (as well as those running for Congress, and for state and municipal seats), or will this momentous decision rest in the hands of Mary Poppins and Jive Turkey? Simply showing photo ID at the polls would go a long way toward preventing an electoral meltdown that could do for American constitutional democracy what today’s financial meltdown is doing for American capitalism.

Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.


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