Politics & Policy

The Real Photo-ID Civil-Rights Issue

Those really concerned about minorities and the poor should help them get photo IDs.

In order to stymie new and proposed requirements that voters present photo identification at the polls, top Democrats cry rivers over those who would become disfranchised for lack of ID cards. If they really cared about these people — of whom there may be millions — Democrats would join Republicans to ensure that they receive ID cards for everyday use.

Instead, leading Democrats use vicious racial rhetoric to hammer those who simply want voters to prove they are who they claim to be.

“Some people want to put their Confederate flags up again in Virginia,” former NAACP director Benjamin Chavis hissed. At a January 31 rally in Richmond, Chavis accused state lawmakers of trying to “lynch democracy.” The city’s Democratic mayor, Dwight C. Jones, added: “The fact that there’s a brother in the White House is just so unsettling to people.” According to Representative Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), pro-photo-ID Republicans are “turning the clock back to the days of Jim Crow.” Last July, former President Bill Clinton told Campus Progress’s annual conclave in Washington, D.C.: “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”

But only on Election Day do these divisive Democrats seem concerned about those without ID cards. The other 364 days of the year, these men and women are undocumented citizens. Absent photo ID, these disconnected Americans do not participate fully in the American experience.

Those without photo ID cannot open bank accounts. They may not board passenger jets. They are not supposed to ride Amtrak trains. They may not purchase cough syrup containing ephedrine and other methamphetamine precursors. In Illinois, they may not buy Drano. In fact, they may not enter the Justice Department to denounce photo-ID rules without first showing photo ID.

Race-baiting Democrats apparently couldn’t care less about these undocumented citizens. If they did care, they would lead a common-sense effort to provide photo-ID cards to every American adult who needs one. By displaying ID cards on Election Day, these politically enfranchised Americans would curb potential and actual ballot fraud and boost confidence in the voting system.

Beyond Election Day, these freshly documented citizens would be socially enfranchised. With photo-ID cards, they could cash checks, fly, visit government buildings, and do plenty more that documented citizens accomplish daily.

“It’s perplexing how so many groups complaining about voter ID laws have the funds to register voters, educate voters, and transport voters to the polls, but never budget anything to rectify ID problems,” declared Deneen Borelli, one of my fellow advisory-board members of Project 21, a network of market-oriented black thinkers.

Civil-rights organizations and other groups that rail against photo-ID rules “should dedicate their resources to help people get IDs rather than complain about laws that have passed,” says J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department voting-rights attorney and author of the legal-policy page-turner Injustice. “That’s what they did in 1964. But it’s harder to raise funds off of accomplishments rather than complaints.” Adams introduced me to the challenge of credentialing America’s undocumented citizens.

This year should see the first American Photo-ID Day. Local and state government offices should open on, say, the first Saturday after Labor Day, allowing citizens to secure free ID cards and even register to vote. Where necessary, the same volunteers for civic groups, unions, the Tea Party, the GOP, and the Democrats who deliver voters to the polls in November should drive people without IDs to motor-vehicle bureaus and other participating institutions. Thus, undocumented citizens will become identifiable voters . . . and documented citizens.

If Democrats give a damn about these disengaged Americans, they will implement this idea. And if Republicans do not embrace something that reduces voter fraud while boosting the life prospects of those with the least, then they truly are the Stupid Party.

— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


The Latest