Politics Explained: Voter ID Laws

Voter ID laws have a habit of coming to the forefront of political news around election time for obvious reasons. Republicans claim that there exists massive amounts of voter fraud that undercuts the legitimacy of the voting process, and Democrats claim that Voter ID laws is nothing more than a Republican conspiracy to keep minority democrats from voting. It seems that both sides need to do a little more homework.

Normally, I like to take issues that I feel are clear cut and explain why I feel that I’m right and express my disbelief that anyone would disagree. I had every intention of doing that with Voter ID laws, but in preparing to write the post I found that the issue was not as simple as it seems. Instead of shying away from the topic because I will admit that I don’t know the answer, I decided that I should share what I know and together we can discuss a solution.

Before I continue much further, in the words of our 44th president, “let me be clear” about what we are talking about here when it comes to Voter ID laws. A Voter ID Law is any law put into place that requires a voter to present some form of identification upon voting. Depending on the state, that could be as little as a utility bill, or as much as a government issued photo ID (like a driver’s license).

Proponents of Voter ID laws feel that something as foundational to American democracy as voting should be protected. You have to show your ID to buy a beer, get on a plane, even when making credit card purchases; why not show your ID when you vote? The main purpose for presenting some form of ID when you vote is to prevent people from taking advantage of the system in a manner labeled “voter fraud.”

As it stands now, in states that don’t require any form of ID when voting, voter fraud is possible. As you may be aware, in such states (which is most states) to vote, all you need to do is register, which can be done by mail in many cases and requires no photo ID. However, as is the case in California, you need to include some sort of identification number with your mail in registration form(Drivers License number, SSN, etc.). When you register, your name goes on to a list that is then given to the volunteers at the polling stations on election day. If you forgot to add some sort of identification number on your registration to prove you weren’t registering a fake or dead person, then any form of ID (utility bill, drivers license, etc.) is required for the first time you vote.

Seems pretty secure right? Well, what if your grandmother was a registered voter and she died shortly before the election? Chances are, her name is not removed from that list meaning you could go up to the poll, say “Hi my name is [grandma]” and cast a ballot in her name. “Well, that’s silly,” you might be thinking, “I don’t know about your county, but our county has the most effective bureaucracy and things like the death of registered voters is taken care of right away.” Well, to you I say, never move from that county because the world isn’t that perfect.

But to the citizens of bureaucratically effective counties, how about this scenario? A person  goes to work on election day and is talking with a co-worker about how they don’t really care about voting this year, or about how, for some reason, they just won’t be voting. For a person dedicated to the cause of casting extra ballots, it would not be that difficult to discern where the person was supposed to vote and then just go there before the polls close and vote in that person’s name. Or, as it has happened in Mississippi, people can offer to pay people for their vote. One more thing that I thought was interesting. In California, one of the forms of ID you can show at the poll (when you vote for the very first time) is the sample ballot that they send to your house. That makes sense right? I mean the government sent a letter to a person on their records so it must be valid. But how did the name get on the records? By voter registration forms. So you’re telling me that I can fill out a voter registration form by mail, not include any ID number, sign it Mr. John Lies-a-lot, and have the government mail something to Mr. John L. and use that as my ID? (I would love for someone to clear that up for me by the way). But for now it is just something to consider.

As you can see, voter fraud is not by any means impossible, and Republicans will be throwing examples like this around to prove to you that this is an epidemic of epic proportions. To be quite honest, voter fraud doesn’t happen as often as is claimed, but why not just build your defenses before you’re attacked?

Well, here’s the general Democrat response. They make the claim Voter ID is inherently discriminatory. The people who would be affected by this are people who don’t have government issued IDs, which means lower class minorities (who also happen to vote democrat most of the time). Arguments against Voter ID laws also call to the fact that this may be considered a poll tax (having to pay to vote) which is strictly unconstitutional.

With the first argument about it being discriminatory, that’s for you too decide. If you think that this is a plot to suppress Democrat voters, then call it discriminatory. If you think that it’s a way of securing the integrity of the voting process, then you can probably dismiss that argument. By that I mean, dismiss the conspiracy theory, but keep in mind that the opponents of Voter ID laws are not exaggerating when they say that a majority of those affected are the poor. Which brings us to our last issue. How do we force people to get IDs in order to vote without making it a poll tax, because you can’t force people to buy something in order to vote.

So, we could just give them out for free. But just like everything else labeled “free” from the government, that means more taxes for you. Are we willing to do that? Well, fine then we will give them out only to the poor as part of a welfare program, but they need to prove that they are poor enough before they get their free ID. But does this not place too much of a burden on the poor who already struggle to take time out of their day to even make it to the polling station? Would that discourage voter registration among the poor, and is that a consequence we are willing to accept?

Before I make my final comments, keep in mind that proponents for Voter ID laws come from every party. According to a recent poll, 52% of Democrats,74% of Independents, and 87% of Republicans feel that voter ID laws are necessary.

So here is my suggestion, then I would ask you to please leave your ideas either in the comment box or on the People v. Ignorance Facebook Page.

I personally feel that regardless of whether or not voter fraud is common in America right now, that is now excuse to have a system that can be taken advantage of. The right to vote has been fought for too many times for us to simply let this issue fall by the wayside. We need to require photo IDs too vote; voting is just that important. But we can’t cast out our poor like this. That is the beauty of America, that the poorest citizens and the richest CEOs have an equal voice in the ballot box; we can’t place an undue burden on them. So, I would suggest that, if you want a free ID, you have to go to a government organization (City Library, DMV, etc.) to register to vote with proof of your poor financial situation. There your picture will be taken and ID will then be issued. Yes this means tax dollars will be used. But I don’t know if you’ve been to any of those government agencies recently, but there are things that can be done to make the processes more cost efficient, and the saved money could be used for this purpose.

It’s a tough question. What do you think? How do we solve the issue of Voter ID laws? Leave a comment below or, better yet, leave a comment on the People v. Ignorance Facebook Page.

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Politics Explained: Obama’s Absurd View on Judicial Activism

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is always engaged in setting important precedent that shapes our judicial system and in preserving the integrity of the Constitution – or so we hope. In comparison to the number of cases that the Supreme Court chooses to take, it is rare that it gets more than passing mention in the media. When the highest court in the land does get as much media attention as it’s getting, you know that something important is going on.

Last week, oral arguments were heard before the court in the case National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, or more commonly known as the case against Obamacare. The main issue in this case, though there are a few, is the idea of an individual mandate and the governments ability to regulate health care. Basically, is it within the power of the national government to force people to either buy government regulated health insurance or pay a fine.

Though we may not get a final decision for months from the Supreme Court, many political commentators have pointed out the likelihood that the individual mandate will be deemed unconstitutional. The real question in everyone’s mind is that if the individual mandate is deemed unconstitutional, will that be enough for the Supreme Court to overturn the entire 2,700 page bill or do they also need to make a ruling against the government regulation of health care. This is where it gets tricky. But anyway, that’s just the background. This is not meant to be an analysis of the case itself but peoples’ reactions to it, especially that of our President.

Earlier today, President Obama made this statement. Quoting from an article from USA Today:

“In his first comments on the court’s historic oral arguments last week, Obama said a decision to reverse the actions of Congress would be “judicial activism,” which conservatives usually oppose.

‘I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,’ the president said.”

I’ve read that quote a dozen times and it astonishes me more and more each time. President Obama was even a self proclaimed professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School (self proclaimed because he was technically just a “Senior Lecturer”). Of all people, he should know what constitutes judicial activism, and this outcome would not fall under that classification. Judicial activism refers to judges letting personal politics affect their decisions and even legislating from the bench. As seen from his absurd comment, Obama feels that overturning any part of Obamacare would be unconstitutional because it was voted upon by the congress. There are many things wrong with that statement. I’ll try to briefly sum up my main points.

Of all people, a senior lecturer of constitutional law at such a well respected law school should understand the principle of separation of powers. There’s a reason why the judicial branch is separated from the other two branches, and not subject to election. It is so that they don’t have to worry about being pushed around by sly Chicago politicians as was the case earlier today. Their whole purpose on the Supreme Court is to keep the legislative and executive branches from passing things like this that erode our constitutional liberties. To top it off, to call such an action “unprecedented” is simply laughable.

Now, there are cases in which, by overturning a law, the Supreme Court is practicing judicial activism. These are the cases in which the law for all intents and purposes is constitutional but the court decides to “interpret” the constitution in such a way that they create a whole new precedent. This could not be further from the truth in this case. To suggest that somehow, by overturning this particular law, the judicial branch would be overstepping their bounds is completely absurd and even embarrassing to hear from our country’s executive leader.

Then why make this unfounded comment? Because Obama wants to make this political. He’s scared that his claim to infamy will be thrown out and then he will have to explain his way around this come the Fall when the general election is in full swing. He hopes that if he can perpetuate the idea now that the justices are a bunch of rouge activists out to get him, then the public will look past that the authorities in the land on the constitution have deemed his precious legislation unconstitutional.

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) summed this all up quite nicely when he said, “It must be nice living in a fantasy world where every law you like is constitutional and every Supreme Court decision you don’t is ‘activist,’ ”

But the truth is, when he was inaugurated, the President swore to uphold the constitution and he has made more attempts since F.D.R. to rip it to shreds for his own political gain. It’s time for this to come to an end.

Libertarianism as a Guide, not a Rule

Let’s establish from the beginning that on the spectrum of political ideologies, I consider myself to be a libertarian leaning conservative. I attribute that to my father, who for many years considered himself entirely libertarian, and tried to pass those thoughts and views along to his children. I like small government. But let me again make it clear that I do not consider myself to be a staunch libertarian. I do think that the current system is extremely bloated and that, for many, the Constitution has been considered nothing more than an old piece of paper in a museum. I agree this must change, but maybe not in the same way others may want it to. In changing the current system we need to rely on libertarian ideals of small government as our guide while also being willing to mold each individual policy so that the United States of America can best promote peace and prosperity at home and abroad.

Over the course of this primary season, I have personally come into contact with many strong Ron Paul supporters. Ron Paul is the candidate who is the champion of libertarian ideals. But in my conversations with Ron Paul supporters, I often feel like I’m being accused of supporting a socialist run police state, where Big Brother is as common as the taxes which fund him. Considering the fact, as I mentioned earlier, that I like to think of myself as being a libertarian leaning conservative, I am taken aback and left with a bad taste in my mouth by these encounters.  I’m left to reflect on my own political decisions and decide if I’m really supporting the right candidate. I ask myself, “Well, aren’t I in favor of limited government? … Don’t I want to see one trillion in debt cut in the budget? … Don’t I want states rights and federalism to thrive?” The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes,” but still Ron Paul is not the one for me. Here are some examples of issues that should be considered exceptions to the hard fast rules present in the minds of libertarians like Ron Paul.

One reason for this is that I do not believe that the world is as black and white as Paul believes it is. Libertarianism to me represents the ideal. It represents what we should be striving towards. If you are a typical Ron Paul person, you have likely already yelled at the computer, “Well then why not support the guy who is going to do that?!” Why not? Because, though I believe that libertarianism embodies the ideal form of government, we do not live in an ideal world. As much as it may pain us to admit it, the world is more gray than it is black and white. Foreign policy seems to me to be the most obvious example of this.

This is a direct quote from the National Defense Policy page from http://www.ronpaul2012.com:

“Taxpayers are forced to spend billions of dollars each year to protect the borders of other countries, while Washington refuses to deal with our own border security needs.

“Congress has been rendered virtually irrelevant in foreign policy decisions and regularly cedes authority to an executive branch that refuses to be held accountable for its actions.”

I personally think that these are great arguments against current National Defense policies. Like Ron Paul suggests, we need to avoid unnecessary war and always go about engaging in war in a constitutional fashion, but we need to allow for exceptions to the rule. I know this is a slippery slope, but it is necessary to consider.

When asked about what the United States should do in Syria, Ron Paul answered “It’s none of our business” (Read full statement here). In that interview he makes very valid points about how it’s not expressly in our national interest to care. I would agree with him, but we should still care. Thousands, even tens of thousands, of innocent civilians in Syria have died for desiring to overthrow a repressive regime, for desiring the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do we just sit back and let them die; let them work it out themselves, while the regime kills more and more everyday? Think about that. According to the black and white libertarian logic, the answer is yes, let them be, because it’s not our problem. But in any case when people are treated inhumanly, do we just sit back knowing that we have the resources to help and just let these people suffer? Do we let these tyrants consolidate their power so that they can continue to harbor non-state actors that are determined to see the destruction of the west? I understand that intervention in any way is costly, so let’s cut the fat elsewhere in the budget and come up with the cash to help these suffering people. Though I know that we could easily avoid such an increase in taxes if we cut the budget elsewhere, even if it means paying a few more dollars, sign me up, and if that makes me a raving liberal, then so be it.

His stance on foreign policy might be enough to convince me not to vote for him, even if it were the only problem I had with Paul’s policy. I am in agreement with all of the ideals of his domestic policies (just like I, in principle, favor the ideals of his foreign policy). The major issue I have with his domestic policy lies mostly in his stance on social issues.

It is the libertarian ideal that all of these kinds of decisions and policies regarding social issues should be left up to the states.  That is the ideal, and I agree with the ideal. But again, there are some things that are just too important to leave up to the states, and Ron Paul even agrees with me on that! Take his stance on abortion for instance. According to Ron Paul’s official campaign website, abortion is the only social issue which Ron Paul feels the national government should have a say in. He feels, as president it would be his responsibility to repeal Roe v. Wade to put the decision back in the hands of the states, and also pass a “Sanctity of Life Act” which would define life as beginning upon conception. From there it would be easier for states to then undo the legalization of abortions. This is a wonderful idea and a great start. It is no wonder why Dr. Ron Paul feels this way. He has worked for years as an OB/GYN and has seen the terrors of abortion. So in no way is my point here to attack Dr. Paul’s stance on abortion, but to ask the question, what about other social issues? Other social issues that are equally important to me, in Paul’s view, should be left up entirely to the states. Again, I agree with the principle of his ideas. For issues such as health care and education, get the federal government out of the way and let states govern.  However, just as Paul feels that the sanctity of life is too important to be defined by the states, I feel that there are other things that deserve a definition and support from the national government so that the government can fulfill its duty  to “promote the general welfare” of our nation.

I really like Ron Paul; I think his is a wonderful man who is doing wonderful things in educating the nation about the ideals of true libertarianism. The more people strive towards having a smaller, less intrusive government, the more prosperity we will see. That I believe. But I also believe that the world isn’t as black and white as we wish it may be. For these reasons and others, I  have decided that even though I like the principles that Ron Paul proclaims, I support a different candidate who also believes in those values of small non-intrusive government while at the same time being willing to shape policy around the specific issue.