Paul Jenkins: Photo voter ID makes sense; opponents don't

commentDecember 15, 2012 

Nothing inflames crazies and the Left more than requiring photo identification to vote. They hint at racism as the raison d'être behind such ideas. Or discrimination against the poor, the elderly or people who do not photograph well. It is an effort by evil Republicans to suppress voting, they wail. Or, worse, outright mopery. And, after all, why bother? Everybody knows there is no voting fraud.

The Anchorage Daily News even opined a few days ago that Republican Rep. Bob Lynn's plan to again introduce a measure requiring photo identification to vote was "a solution in search of a problem."

The newspaper was quite adamant. It said Elections Director Gail Fenumiai could recall only one such case in Alaska. Further, there were only 86 voter fraud convictions found by the President George W. Bush's Justice Department in a review of 300 million votes cast from 2002 to 2007. "That's a fraud rate of .00003 percent, or 3 in 10 million," it said.

The newspaper wondered why Alaska needs a photo ID requirement for voting? "There is no good reason," it said.

Well, yes there is -- to protect the integrity of a vulnerable, exposed system.

On their face, the newspaper's numbers are specious. Conviction rates are not crime rates. People daily break the law without being convicted. Who can presume to know whether -- or how many -- folks are trotting to polling places to vote under somebody else's name if nobody is bothering to ensure they are who they say they are? It would be easier to prove the back side of the moon is made of limburger cheese.

In a state where elections often are decided by a mere handful of votes, you would think even liberals would welcome a squeaky clean system with iron-clad protections.

Unfortunately, there is ample reason to fret. The New York Times reported this year that the Pew Center on the States estimated about 1.8 million dead folks remained on active voter rolls across the nation, with 2.8 million people actively registering in more than one state. Some 70,000 are registered in three or more states, Pew found.

The systemic problems spring in large part from overworked, underfunded, decentralized registration systems -- and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the Motor Voter Act.

A grandiose idea, it was to foster voter registration while applying for a driver's license or social services. Among other aims, it was supposed to keep voter registration rolls accurate. The law, the spawn of liberals trying to pad the rolls with Democrats, is a dismal failure and, indeed, makes it exceedingly tough and expensive to remove names from registration rolls. Because of that, more ineligible names accumulate and the rolls swell.

Could there possibly be a case or two of voting fraud given all the ingredients in the registration soup? Only a Democrat wearing blinders would say no.

Right now, 33 states require voting ID, with 17 of them requiring photo ID at the polls. The 16 others allow a wide variety of ID, some of which do not require photos.

In Alaska, voters can identify themselves with a driver's license with a photo, or a rural license with none. They can use hunting or fishing licenses, a birth certificate or a host of other identification. The state also issues a voter ID card, without photo, that is accepted, and it allows poll workers to accept ballots from people they know personally. The problem is that someone bent on mischief could vote under another's name -- and very easily.

To ensure the sanctity of the ballot box, requiring identification is only logical. The arguments against it are silly. What do most of us use photo ID for? Everything from getting on plane to cashing a check at a bank to buying tobacco or alcohol or a gun or renting a vehicle. The list seemingly is endless. Oh, and if we want to apply for government benefits, the preferred ID -- you guessed it -- carries a photograph. To combat fraud.

Are we to believe minorities and the poor and elderly do not already have such ID? It would seem to me that assuming they cannot handle their own affairs in matters such as getting photo ID to vote is discriminatory and racist on its face.

The view from the Left is that Alaska's voter identification law works just fine.

It would be comforting if our friends could prove it.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.

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