The Battle over Photo IDs for Voters

Joseph Kay, American Renaissance, April 6, 2012

Why are blacks so opposed to them?

The right to vote has always been central to the black civil-rights movement, but the most recent skirmish in this battle is puzzling. On one side are state election officials who want to reduce voter fraud by requiring citizens to produce a government-supplied photo ID before they vote. They say the laws are neither burdensome nor discriminatory because it is almost inconceivable that anybody—white or black, poor or rich—could live in today’s modern economy without some form of official photo identification (it often takes a photo ID to buy alcohol or cigarettes). When voter ID laws have gone to court, judges have generally supported them: In the 6-3  Crawford v. Marion County decision in 2008, the US Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s strict “no-photo, no-vote” law.

On the other side are various “civil rights” groups, especially the NAACP, that claim ID requirements will reduce black and Hispanic turnout. They say this is true even if IDs are free. The NAACP is so adamant that it recently visited the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland for help in resisting voter ID laws (democracies such as Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and the Congo sit on the council). The liberal-leaning Brennan Center supports this argument, suggesting that 11 percent of all eligible voters—especially the poor, the elderly, minorities and the disabled—do not have a photo ID and proof of citizenship because it is too expensive or inconvenient to get them.

Clearly, there is something more here than “civil rights” organizations using the voter ID argument to justify their existence. Let me offer a possible explanation—one unspeakable in public—that explains why something so seemingly innocuous generates such strong feelings.

The NAACP and its allies in the Department of Justice are correct: requiring a government-supplied ID may well reduce black and Hispanic turnout, but the way this modest requirement will do that may not be obvious. No black will stay home on voting day simply because he was unable to get an ID. If that were the only obstacle, “civil rights” organizations would be helping people get the necessary documents, and state agencies would be bending over backwards to make it easy. The situation is more complicated.

For many Americans presenting a fool-proof ID to a government official (and election monitors are government officials at least for the day) runs a serious risk and they therefore refuse to have an ID no matter how convenient or cheap. Here’s why. In today’s age of massive computerized data bases no one knows what might be found in the second or two after the ID is applied for or scanned. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a cheaper, more efficient way to catch fugitives from justice than reading IDs, especially if they contain tamper-proof biogenetic information. As technology improves and data bases become interconnected, the portable ID scanner could become the most potent anti-crime weapon of all.

Law abiding, middle-class folk seldom appreciate how (mainly) poor people become ensnarled in the criminal justice system. We are not talking only of murderers, rapists and other felons. Far more common are offenses like missed child support payments, failure to cover bounced checks, skipping out on rent or utility bills, the fallout from domestic disturbances, defaulting on a loan, failing to appear for a court appearance over a petty drug or gambling arrest, alleged welfare fraud, and unpaid traffic fines. These offences, sometimes called “scrapes with the law,” seldom justify major police work, given their sheer volume and non-violent character. Few police departments can afford to track down and arrest, say, a deadbeat dad and then take up court time to garnish his wages. Many cities are struggling to provide even basic police and fire protection, and increasingly ignore these crimes. Many eventually disappear into rarely accessed files.

But imagine what would happen if the list of all registered voters were collated with the list of all outstanding offenses? The local police would just park the paddy wagons outside the polling stations, boot up their laptops, wait for “hits,” and arrest the miscreants as they exited the polling station. These voters would not know that when their ID was checked it alerted the awaiting police.

It would take only a handful of arrests to discourage untold others from appearing on Election Day. If voting means running the risk of arrest for something perhaps not even remembered, why take the chance? Just stay home.

This is also very rumor friendly—everyone would quickly hear the story of a friend of a friend who went off to perform his civic duty only to be booked for a long-forgotten stack of parking tickets. A paddy wagon or a single police officer near the polling station would discourage anyone worried about some past problem.

In principle, it would be possible to forbid the merging of voting and law enforcement records, but this is easier said than done. Election administration is very localized, and the temptation to use the vote to catch wrong-doers—and keep the practice secret—would be very strong. There might even be pressure from outside groups to use voter lists for this purpose. Just wait until women’s groups found out that voter IDs could be used to catch deadbeat dads or wife beaters.

Thus understood, it is easy to grasp why the NAACP and other groups stress the inconvenience of getting a government-issued photo ID: they can hardly admit that many blacks have unresolved legal problems, and that being forced to get an official ID could expose them to arrest. Even with clean records, many blacks might think there was a risk in voting.

Of course, a reluctance to vote is hardly restricted to blacks—many middle-class whites shun registering to vote to avoid jury duty. Many career criminals supposedly refuse any government ID, including social security cards and drivers’ licenses, so as to remain “invisible.”

Linking voter registration to past misbehavior may be a harbinger to things to come. It is only a matter of time before financially strapped local governments use cheap modern technology and secure biometric IDs to scrutinize all applicants for entitlements. Here too, the upshot will be the discovery of long-forgotten legal problems.

But, while voting is easily foregone to avoid the police, this is not true of food stamps or subsidized housing. The choice may be between benefits or an unwelcome legal encounter. Imagine what would happen when millions learned that registering for benefits with a secure photo ID could bring fines or incarceration?  Black leaders would naturally scream “war on the poor,” but local governments may be so desperate to cut costs they would not care.

The result could even be a return to 1960s-style race riots.

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Joseph Kay
Joseph Kay is a retired academic who suffers from compulsive truth-telling disorder.
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  • WmarkW

    A variation on this theme is what really worries me about the UHC (Obamacare) plan — I don’t believe the payment aspect of it will be enforced to nearly the same extent the provision of benefits will.  _IF_ the way it eventually worked is that everyone would be in an appropriate pool and required to pay premiums, that would be perfectly acceptable.  It would be a big improvement in some important ways, such as hospitals that must provide emergency care even to the insured indigent. 

    But it won’t take long before either the court system or a Democratic Congress determines that the payment requirements are unenforceable, either because they constitute self-incrimination, or because they would lead to the kind of background check described above that would identify scofflaws and fugitives.  But health care would still have to be dispensed with an opt-out to checks, at the patient’s discretion.

  • Another reason why the civil rights gang is opposed:  It would seriously preclude voter fraud.

  • JohnEngelman

    A number of states, including mine, which is dominated by the Democrat Party, require photo IDs for voting. Before making up my mind on this issue I would like to know what percentage of fraudulent voting is prevented by requiring photo IDs, and what percentage of those with minor and pending criminal offenses are discovered by requiring photo IDs. 

    • Impertinent

      Who cares what the percentage is? Is that something you’re willing to overlook as something that doesn’t affect a legitimately conducted election? What matters is that No one who is ineligible to vote…should not be allowed to vote.

      If I had it my way….only property owners and taxpayers should be allowed to vote..Period.

      People who game the system or live off of it….shouldn’t be allowed to vote for those who’s only promise is to continue the bennies.

      • JohnEngelman

        Those who feel the way you do should state your opinions publicly, and not pretend that you are concerned with voter fraud. President Andrew Jackson ended property and tax qualifications for voting. There is no reason to believe that there is popular support for restoring them. 

      • MikeofAges

        If 10 percent of the electorate was other than homeowners, employed adults and senior citizens eligible for Social  Security, I would be surprised. Actually, the electorate is very heavily weighted toward older people.

  • JohnEngelman

    I would also like to know what percentage of qualified voters are discouraged from voting by requiring photo IDs. As a rule those without photo IDs are less likely to vote anyway. 

  • haroldcrews

    What I remember is that in 1993 during the Motor Voter debate it was the blacks and other Democrats that were the primary proponents of it to increase the number of their votes.  Based in large part about the ease of registering to vote while obtaining a driver’s license/ID or obtaining government benefits. Now they are claiming it is to much trouble to obtain a license or ID to present before voting.

    • JackKrak

      Excellent point.

  • I have actually said something like this for years. Criminals dont want to carry ID so they can pretend to be someone else. One episode of “bait car” had a black woman telling her driver freind what her fake name was supposed to be due to a warrant out for her arrest. Bait car was a show where a car was set up as a trap for car thieves that could have the ignition killed and had audio /video from inside the car.
     There are laws about updating your address with ID as well, if a cop sees you are 200+ miles away from home he will treat you different than a neighbor who might have reason to be in a friends backyard. Remember the black college proffesor that instead of showing the cop his ID he got beligerant  when caught trying to break into his own house and ended up having beer with obuma, if he showed the cop he lived there it would not have been a story.

    •  …he got belligerent  when caught trying to break into his own house and
      ended up having beer with Obuma, if he showed the cop he lived there it
      would not have been a story.

      Henry Louis Gates.  I still contend he set the whole thing up, because he wanted a cop to accost him, because he wanted to be famous again, because he was jealous that Cornel West was getting more famous than himself.  And for a double bonus, he could whine about racial profiling. 

      But I don’t think he actually expected to be arrested, that’s where his scheme went off the tracks.

      • Gates set the whole thing up, oh yes. The cop arrested him in his own house. He really fooled us all.

  • KenelmDigby

    Firstly,  we need to distinguish between civil and criminal offences here.
     Criminal offences are offences against the state itself, the police have an obligation to apprehend criminal offenders. The police are already in posession of massive and intrusive data bases covering all vital details of suspects (and incidentally of the law abiding), which can be accessed at the flick of a switch, anywhere at anytime.

  • JackKrak

    Agreed about the “rumor friendly” bit. In their bizarro world, blacks will believe anything the street tells them. Within no time at all, they will conclude that voter ID’s make black men sterile and the company that makes them is owned by the KKK.

  • DelmarJackson

    In 2004 I lived in an area where nearly all the poll workers were black as were most of the voters. On election day I was asked to show a photo ID. After  I voted I waited a few moments and watched as the same poll worker processed other voters who were black like themselves and they never asked for any Id. If the races had been reversed imagine the outcry and news reporting.

     We asume laws making photo ID mandatory will be enforced, but they probably would be enforced selectively, just like immigration laws.

     I wonder why there is no outcry over the possibility of the new electronic voting machines stealing elections, which should be a major story comapered to voter ID.

     Has anyone noticed how exit polls in the last couple of elections were uselsss in theiri predictability . if the election is being electronically rigged exit polls would naturally be different from the results.

    • Flytrap

       This year, wear a video camera and record your interaction and everyone elses’ if it’s different.  Anyone else with similar concerns should do the same.  Breitbart them. 

      • DelmarJackson

        be very careful of videotaping people unaware and recording any conversations, as some sates have wiretapping laws on their books dating back 60 years ago that have lengthy prison sentences for anyone that is convicted of recording audio without permission..

  • No

    This is one of those brilliant but simple explanations that AT FIRST makes you slap your forehead and say:

    “Why didn’t I think of that!”

    But the true explanation, I’m afraid, is not quite as simple as the “deadbeats and scoundrels are afraid of being caught” theory suggests.

    President Bush signed HAVA (Help America Vote Act) in late 2002 . . . partly as a result of what the country saw in the 2000 election.   HAVA provides money to make voting more accessible and generally, well,  helps more American vote.

    HAVA already centralized voter registration rolls at state level (instead of locally as they were) and requires states to collate the registration list with other state databases . . . primarily to update it due to deaths, imprisonment and other changes.

    So the basic mechanism Mr Kay suggests has already been in place for over a decade and as we saw in 2008, did not affect black voter turnout.

    Personally, I suspect that “deadbeats and scoundrels” who MIGHT have warrants or other issues, probably don’t bother to register to vote anyway.  Besides, even if local police knew that (let’s say) 1% (100) of 10,000 voters in a town might be dirty . . . they simply don’t have the resources to watch all voting places and arrest the 100.

    And don’t forget, too, that HAVA already requires voters to show some kind of identification . . . and we saw no evidence in 2008 that this deterred blacks.

    So, I’m afraid that while Mr Kay’s thesis is interesting . . . it probably is not a very valid explanation.

    Back to the original question . . . so why DOES the NAACP oppose photo identification?

    I take them at their word . . . they want NO obstacles to hinder voting or voter registration because they understand that blacks will simply not vote unless it’s a very easy process.

    This is a case of Occam’s Razor where the simplest explanation is best:  The NAACP recognizes that blacks are inherently lazy and unwilling to motivate themselves to accomplish anything. 

    MAKING THE EFFORT to stand in line,  have a picture taken, perhaps pay a fee and get an identification is a bridge too far for a large segment of the black population.  Without that “large segment” of the lazy and unwilling, Obama would not have been elected.

    Who best to understand this than an association designed to advance colored peoples . . . who history shows are UNWILLING AND UNABLE to advance?

  • crazy_j

    I can honestly say that, even as a white, law-abiding citizen, I can not and will never endorse the kind of State power you envision.

    What the State can do to the least of us, it can do to all of us. Frankly, my distaste of the negro race is outweighed only by my dislike of government in any and all its present forms.

  • usapatriot1776

    The article fails to mention that requiring proof of ID raises the cost of doing business when it comes to vote fraud. If you needed a separate photo ID for each time you tried to vote (using the name of a dead voter, or a voter who hasn’t voted in years) it would get very expensive.

    To me this is the real reason. The old Chicago saying ‘vote early and vote often’ comes to mind.

    Out of work people who have nothing better to do can vote all day long, getting bussed around the city. They could easily be handed a new name to vote under by a handler, and no ID is asked for or checked.

  • NM156

    Chicago requires a photo ID and a signature comparison. No one in city council is screaming to undo these requirements to allow more blacks on the south and west sides to vote. NAACP is colluding with La Raza and an innumerable number of other Hispanic immigrant advocacy groups because they have the same political goals, the overriding one being shoving whitey out while taking their money. Your explanation may have some support somewhere, but the proximate answer is practical coalition politics.

    • tacheles

      I live in Chicago and have never been asked for  an ID when voting.

      • NM156

        Uh huh. I’ll bet you do. Chicago Corners, Wisconsin?

  • So some how blacks are dumb and criminals yet at the same time they are super civic citizens who will stop at nothing to vote even if its illegal. Sounds logical.

    Voter fraud is not a problem. Its hard enough to get people to vote, who is going out of their way to vote fraudulently? To make a difference in any election you would have to get hundreds or thousands of people to vote fraudulently. You would have to pay them at least $50 to make it worth it AND even after paying out a ton of money there is no way to prove they voted the person you wanted them to.

    Plus you have to make sure everyone said nothing about it. Try to keep a secret with in a small group.

    If you use common sense and not non thinking outrage you realize voter fraud worries are illogical

  •  By “keepin it real.”

    And I’m only being halfway glib — There are a lot of habitual black criminals who don’t want photo ID because it “cramps their style,” i.e. it creates a paper trail.

  • brock2118

    Maybe the best way to stay out of trouble with the police would be to pay your child support….