Are new voter I.D. laws, like the one in Pennsylvania, an unconstitutional Poll Tax?

While I was commenting over at Debito’s about the standards we citizens of the 21st century carry around with us, about Equal Protection of the Law, it called to mind a development here in America. Recently, the Republican Party has been trying to disenfranchise potential Democratic voters by figuring out what forms of personal I.D. a Democrat is less likely to have. Then, if they control the state government—as so many states with big 2010 elections are now Republican—they have their bill-writing organization “ALEC” come up with a Voter I.D. proposal for that state.

The claim is that there is a rash of voter fraud that these bills are meant to address. But really, I see this as a pure political move to suppress the Democratic vote. Additionally, I think there are some elements of an insult towards Barack Obama. The Republicans who refer to this sudden epidemic of voter fraud are suggesting that the wildly huge turnout in 2008 (55% or so, which is high for America) was made up of fraud. And, so, therefore, there is no way that (in its most sinister incarnation) “that black guy” could have legitimately won the Presidency. They can’t say about the birth certificate without being laughed at. So they go to the next stage, and start insinuating things about whether 2008 was a legitimate election. (They seem to have no trouble with 2000 though, which most of us know was not a legitimate election, because no one knows who won Florida’s electors.)

I keep meaning to talk about a portrait that I saw making the internet rounds last month. It shows all the Presidents, with Barack Obama defiantly in the front—his foot on the Constitution. James Madison is there, bent over, seeming to ask: how can this be!

It looks like the product of a sore loser or a crybaby. But with a little bit extra effort put in.

If you see the whole picture, it isn’t clear that the originator is making a pure racial argument by any means. In fact, I think it’s a little bit of a mixed message. Likewise, I don’t think the Tea Party people were motivated by race, either. It seemed more the old Sore Loserism, and then, as a backdrop, the surprise that the nation isn’t run by a bunch of white men in periwigs anymore. But, instead, the head of government is black. So they dress up like (overweight) Founding Fathers for their protests, and paint these kinds of pictures.

You see, it isn’t about the forlorn James Madison, bemoaning the trampling of the Constitution. It’s that America changed in the 1960’s. It continues to change, and will change. And that actually is the way America is and–more importantly–has been.

When the Poll Tax was made unconstitutional in 1964, the Southern states did not support the amendment. They wanted to use fee payments and other tricks to keep black people away from the polls. This is so, even though they lost the Civil War 99 years before. Could it be that, inevitably, the people who promote this same sort of recidivist thinking, would dream up the idea of paying for a special Voter I.D., as though the rest of us forgot that the Twenty-Fourth amendment prohibits having to pay some sort of money as a condition of voting? Do they actually think it is constitutional, when suddenly that payment of money (or having to do some other act before registering) is one or two steps removed from the voting process?

I see how the people who are out to undermine the American republic go about it: they make you re-fight the fights that have already been fought. The ones they lost. (I am going through that right now with a big corporation that doesn’t believe in Title VII as it’s been enacted since 1991.)

Voter I.D. laws that require people who would not already have a driver’s license, or whatever the precondition is, are a Poll Tax. That’s clear, and I’m not the only one who feels that way. What surprises me is that some people have the gall to propose this kind of stuff in 2012.

[Update: Voter turnout in 2008 is estimated at 56.8%. If there was any fraud in that amount, I would be surprised if it was even 100 people nationwide. This would not have changed 56.8% or the result of the major federal and state elections. It might have changed a dogcatcher one somewhere.]

7 thoughts on “Are new voter I.D. laws, like the one in Pennsylvania, an unconstitutional Poll Tax?

  1. Boy, when you get on a partisan rant you make little sense. Voter fraud, at any level, must be avoided. Elections have been won and lost by one vote at the local level. What is wrong with making sure that the person voting is really the registered voter? What would it be so difficult in obtaining a voter ID? Why do you believe that every Republican has a racial motivation for every action? As a reader of your blog, I find you to be educated, informed and interesting, but when you address partisan politics, you just lose it and lose me.

    1. What’s weird, if you don’t mind me saying, is that I specifically disagreed that the Republicans are doing things that are purely racially motivated. The online portrait where I sample James Madison has been strongly suggested to imply something about race. I am giving the creator of it the benefit of the doubt.

      The message that I think is very clear, that when a party does two things:

      1) concoct a “problem” (voter fraud), that, for the most part doesn’t exist;


      2) do it at a time and in a way that suggests something about long-term polling trends against its own party,

      they are saying something a little “more” than the just simplies. It’s not about voter fraud, it’s about the extraordinarily rare voter fraud, and a couple other things.

      You notice the Republicans don’t treat America’s current sizable longterm unemployment crisis (for which federal jobs would immediately solve the problem) with the same kind of vigor that they are taking up voter fraud and women’s ultrasound / health care issues. Why?

      1. Oh, and you know, I can go back and read your prior comments to me here. They’re always about Obama, and they’re always negative. It’s like you’re what (I believe) they call “net field” in campaigns, going around to pro-Obama sites and leaving a turd there any time something positive is said about the President.

      2. Sorry, but I cannot leave this unchallenged. In your original article, you state that “They seem to have no trouble with 2000 though, which most of us know was not a legitimate election” but then turn around and accuse Republicans of “concocting a problem”. Any act that increases transparency in elections has my vote, I don’t trust any of them, and laws like Georgia’s forbidding me from taking pictures of my vote, or almost every states’ forbidding verifiable, countable – and recountable if necessary – paper ballots illegal indicate cover-up to me. At the very least they make it impossible to verify that shenanigans are not going on.

        When you show up to vote, you are asserting that you have a legal right, that you are a citizen, 18 or older, not convicted of a felony (or if so, you are re-enfranchised), etc. All we are asking is that you prove it. I don’t understand why people want to make it a race issue, a party issue, or anything other than a “prove to me that you are eligible” issue. I see arguments saying that poor, minority and urban people will be disproportionately disenfranchised by such laws. But normally I would expect that a citizen must present ID to REGISTER TO VOTE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Why is requiring the same ID to vote now somehow putting ANYONE at a disadvantage?

        1. This is cart in front of the horse.

          If you prove who you are when you register, that should be all the proof you need, right?

          I have worked elections, and in each one, there were so many people watching who was coming in, it’s hard for me to see how there was rampant voter fraud.

          If someone comes in, and says they are who is on the list, they should not be required to prove that they are that person—unless someone else desires to challenge that vote. The cost should go on the person who chooses to object! Not go, on the person who simply seeks to vote.

          This is how it has been in America for over 200 years (with the exceptions of what the Southerners did to black people, and what was generally done to women and 18-20 year olds). If the Republican Party is so conservative, why make this radical change?

          1. So you concede the need to provide identification to register to vote, but not to vote. I find that very odd. Especially in light of the SAT and ACT enacting “tough new measures to prevent cheating” ( based on the fact that 20 people (!) were caught last fall.

            So 20 people is enough fraud for standardized test makers, but since it’s hard for YOU to “see how there was rampant voter fraud”, there must not be a problem. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you are probably not as devious as some people who would try this sort of thing. That should speak highly of your integrity.

            It is very difficult – if not impossible – to prove that there is no fraud going on if there is no way to check whether it is or not!

            I sincerely hope that you are not the type of person who was shocked and wanting more transparency in elections in 2000, when the Supreme Court awarded Florida to GWB. It seems strange to me that after so many years of Democrats wanting these changes, and accusing Republicans of manipulating voter rolls, manipulating counts, etc. that now they don’t want Republicans to enact laws that would work toward more transparency.

            I feel that no matter the political stance, Americans should be entitled to honest elections. That includes the ability to ensure that everyone legally entitled to cast a vote (and ONLY those people) are able to do so, and to have it recorded and counted exactly as it was intended to be cast, and to verify that it has been so done. I happen to believe that is best achieved by requiring identification, having paper ballots with unique numbers that can be recorded, open counting, and being able to check (maybe online?) how the ballot with my unique number was counted.

            In this day and age, where I can dispute a $5 credit card purchase as though my life depended on it, I find it silly that my vote must be cast in a way I cannot authenticate, and counted by software I cannot see.

            1. How do you propose voter fraud would be occurring? With the SAT or some college admission test, the cheater obtains a thing of value–the good score–as the end result of the cheating. With voter fraud, let’s say that one voter figured out a way to vote twice. Twice. So they can only affect the outcome if the vote was decided by margin of one. (The example vote would have been even, and this one fraud would move it up by one.)

              Provided that someone could even get away with that, without being caught, what are they going to gain? How does Voter I.D. necessarily solve the problem—people could just fake I.D.s.

              The sole purpose of this push to combat a problem that isn’t there is simply that the Republicans surrounding ALEC discovered that Republicans are more likely to be holding certain kinds of state I.D.s than Democrats were. So this was simply a way to select out the voter pool ahead of the 2012 elections. Just like gerrymandering, it was a way to select the voters before the election. The same way that Florida has always had the voting system designed to create more spoiled ballots in areas where black people live. Sure, some whites spoil their ballots, too. But that isn’t the what the doing is for.

              Who is to say that all these elected officials pushing Voter I.D. weren’t themselves elected through fraud? (And not just the speech-bribery problem we have in America.) What makes them so credible on the issue of valid elections?

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