In a post yesterday I responded an editorial in the Grand Forks Herald in which opinion editor Tom Dennis said that Republicans should just give up and go home on the voter ID issue. The courts have spoken, striking down laws similar to North Dakota’s in other states, so the issue is over.
Today, in an editorial partially responding to my post, Dennis strikes a more conciliatory tone.
My point was that we are focused on the wrong issue in the voter ID debate, which is whether or not voter ID laws are discriminatory because they’re hard for poor/minority citizens to comply with. We ought to be talking about why people supposedly disenfranchised by ID requirements aren’t able to comply with the modest requirements for obtaining one.
Rather than scrapping ID requirements, I think we should make it cheaper and easier for all citizens to obtain ID’s. We could accomplish this through initiatives like providing free ID’s for those providing proof of indigency (which most states with voter ID laws already do) and by creating mobile, traveling DMV offices to provide ID’s and other services to rural areas.
Notably, of the two recent court decisions that are forcing Texas and Wisconsin to change their strict Voter ID procedures, neither blocked the IDs completely. The decisions simply insisted on a safety net—namely, an Election Day recourse such as an affidavit for disadvantaged voters who lack IDs.
States also could eliminate the need for a safety net ahead of time. They could do this by, say, phasing Voter ID in over time, providing free voter photo ID cards for eligible citizens and dispatching mobile units to provide the IDs and register voters.
I also think North Dakota should institute voter registration, both as a way to ensure that only lawful voters cast ballots and to protect the primary process. I don’t think Democratic voters should be able to meddle in the Republican nomination process, and vice versa. Registration would help prevent that sort of crossover voting.
But back to the voter ID issue specifically, we can debate ways in which we can make obtaining a valid ID easier, and that’s a better debate to have than the one over whether we require an ID at all.
Because we must require an ID. The law sets out qualifications for voters, and defines the jurisdictions in which those voters can cast ballots, and the only way to enforce those laws is through ID’s.