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Currently viewing the tag: "Lincoln Chafee"

Okay, so I got in a bit of trouble the last time I blogged about voter ID as a concept, for which I take complete blame as I did not really articulate where I was coming from very well. My first choice on this issue would be to do nothing, since there’s no real evidence that there is a problem that needs to be solved. However, the Republican Party has adopted voter ID laws as a tactic to disenfranchise voters they don’t agree with politically, heedless of the consequences to our democracy and to their long-term health as a political party. So, as a second choice, if we’re going to have to have something like this, I would prefer something…well, sort of like the law signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island:

The photo ID requirement will not kick in until 2014, and all college, Rhode Island and federally issued IDs will be accepted under the law. The state will provide free IDs to those who don’t have one and will allow those without IDs to cast provisional ballots.

Reading the whole report (and I’d recommend it), it really does appear that the goal here was to design a voter ID law based on inclusivity instead of exclusivity. It’s hard to see how someone who actually wants to vote in Rhode Island won’t be able to under the new law. Not enough cash for an ID card? The state will provide one, gratis. Can’t get out to the DMV to pick an ID up? You can cast a provisional ballot, no problem. Now, of course, you could criticize Rhode Island’s Democratic government for affirming the validity of voter ID laws, and to the extent that it encourages Republicans in, say, Ohio to claim, “Well, even the liberal Rhode Island is requiring voter ID! It’s okay for us to do it too!” then it’s clearly not such a good thing. That’s fair, though it’s really a complaint about the media and how the political debate in this country is conducted. I don’t think the concept of having some form of ID is necessarily the problematic concept. The problem is really that Republicans routinely set up voter ID laws to keep vulnerable parts of the population from voting, i.e. the problem is disenfranchisement. I don’t see how Rhode Island is doing that. And, while it’s not as though Rhode Island’s law is going to increase participation in the political process, I don’t really see how it’s going to hurt it significantly. It’ll probably end up being a wash is my guess. Which brings up the question of why to do it at all, if when implemented in a relatively fair fashion it winds up having no impact on outcomes. Let me reiterate that I agree, there’s really no point to doing it at all, and if it winds up having no effect in Rhode Island it will be a powerful rhetorical point against GOP arguments on the subject, that significant voter fraud does not exist outside of Fox/Rush/Drudgeland.

Of course, this is all a rather nuanced conversation when the Republicans mostly just want to yell, “VOTER FRAUD!!!1!!” and volume unfortunately is often enough to win debates at this point. But what needs to be considered is that down this road lies the long-term damage they are doing to themselves with young voters (who will later be middle-aged voters that will never forget being disenfranchised by the GOP while young), as well as minorities, et al. As with much of the Republicans’ current tactics, this one might help them in the short term, but the long term consequences don’t look so good. Also, this seems as good a time as any to push for national legislation setting requirements on how states can institute these ID laws, and perhaps some federal guidelines on when criminals can vote would be good too. It is insane to me that the states get to make policy on this matter, and to the extent they do, they ought to get very little leeway to make mischief.

Not full-on marriage, sadly, but a step forward is a step forward.