I’m mad about Voter ID laws. Wee Fierce Beastie and I bought a home, updated our drivers licenses and updated our voter registrations not all that long ago. Now, I also got shown this by Wee Fierce Beastie recently: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Voting
It’s true, and pretty funny, but it missed one thing that is really worth mentioning. Voter ID laws as presently formulated are arguably violations of the 24th Amendment and subsequent court rulings strengthening and extending it’s protection to state elections.
For those of us who don’t have the U.S. Constitution and its amendments memorized in its entirety (No shame. I’m included.):
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
As mentioned above, subsequent Supreme Court rulings (Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections), ruled poll taxes unconstitutional in state elections as well.
Are voter ID laws a form of poll tax? They’re certainly a barrier to voting. Doesn’t everyone have a drivers license? Well, no. Do you know anyone who doesn’t drive? They probably don’t. How about an elderly family member who, again likely for reasons of not driving, doesn’t have a valid, unexpired license? No big deal to get one? Well, for starters, have you been to the DMV (or DPS, whatever) lately? Waiting in line at the DMV is a cliche for a reason. Locations frequently aren’t open very often. As in, not 5 days a week, and frequently even less frequently.
That’s also covered by the video. The real issue is, aside from all the obstacles of complex and specific requirements as to what constitutes adequate proof of eligibility and identity to get ID required for voting, there is the issue of the fees required to obtain the documents required. If you lost your birth certificate, do you know what the fee is to get one?
It’s probably not a ton. In Oklahoma it’s $15, and actually Oklahoma just requires a social security number to register to vote, and you get a voter ID card that suffices to vote with, and even if you lose it, you can vote a provisional ballot. It’s weirdly…not as horrible as I expected. That isn’t true in a huge number of states, though.
$15 (or whatever it is in your state), big deal, right? I mean even if you had to pay it every year to vote, that’s not too bad, right? If you were going to vote before, you’d probably still pay that. But what if it were more? Just about everyone has a line at which they’d…well, they’d like to vote, but…it’s only one vote and it probably won’t make a difference and it’s a lot of hassle anyways and with the added expense…It might be $150, it might be $1,500, but for some people, it’ll be $15. If you feel entitled to look down on someone for not being able to justify $15 to vote, then you need to check your fucking privilege.
As presently formulated, our system is that all citizens of legal age, unless disqualified for various reasons (felony, for instance…and I have issues with that too. Another time.), are entitled to vote. There are lists of reasons you can’t be disqualified to vote, and not having enough money to pay the tax to vote is one of those banned reasons.
There should be NO financial barriers to being able to vote.
And while we’re at it, why don’t we cut most of the ‘having the leisure of being able to take time off work’ bureaucratic barriers? Make voter registration automatic wherever possible (if you meet the criteria and they have sufficient information (say, because you got a state ID/driver’s license), you can vote), and go ahead and fucking make election days holidays.