Thursday, March 8, 2012

Voter ID laws and unintended consequences

Following the latest round of primary elections around the country, there have been stories about old white guys getting turned away from the polls because they lacked proper identification. In each case, the old white guys had tried to use their Veterans Administration photo ID as identification. They were outraged that it wasn't acceptable. I can understand why they're upset, but, hey, guys, maybe, just maybe, you should have paid more attention when your state legislators were debating the laws. The time to protest was when they were crafting the laws and pushing them through, not after the fact.

Voter ID laws have been a favorite talking point of right wing politicians for years. They're always fulminating about the rampant voter fraud that's corrupting the election process. They can never point to any examples of it happening, but they managed to get a lot of people worked up about the issue, usually by claiming that hordes of illegal immigrants were showing up to vote for undesirable socialist radicals (aka Democrats). This has been such a favorite talking point among conservatives that a sizable contingent within the tinfoil hat crowd is convinced that's how Barack Obama got elected: pure fraud.

In response to the right wing paranoia about voting fraud, the left has responded by arguing that voter ID laws are a blatant attempt to disenfranchise the poor and minorities, two groups that are less likely to have a driver's license. Although it's been brought up a few times that another group -- old white people -- could lack state-issued photo IDs, most of the protesting about voter ID laws has come from groups associated with minorities, such as the NAACP. This could explain why in their eagerness to disenfranchise minorities, the Republicans haven't noticed they're also disenfranchising their own base.

This is the Law of Unintended Consequences in action. You set out to achieve one thing (discourage brown people from voting) and end up achieving another (preventing your supporters from voting). Over on the left,  now that these ID laws are a reality, Get out the Vote activists have been busy encouraging people to both register to vote and make sure they have an acceptable form of identification when they go to the polls. On the right, however, they've just assumed that all those loonies with the tea bags dangling from their hats know what they're doing.

I know it kind of ticks people off when I say stuff like, hey, if some geezer gets told his VA ID isn't acceptable identification that's his problem for not paying attention to what the politicians he voted in have been up to, but it's true. Based on demographics, the elderly veterans getting told their VA ID isn't good for voting are the same people who supported voter ID laws to begin with. Until they got told their VA ID wasn't on the list of acceptable IDs, odds are everyone of those geezers would have told you they supported tough voter ID laws and were happy they were in place. You get what you pay for, and if you vote in politicians who decide that only a very limited number of forms of identification are valid at the polls, you've no one to blame but yourself.


  1. I belong to the largest (well used to be) VFW Post in the World and I can assure you that older vets -
    especially WWII (the scant few that we are still blessed with) and Korea vets vote Republican.
    As I mentioned over on my blog - the ONLY case of voter fraud I have ever heard of that resulted in a conviction was that of Charlie White, the former REPUBLICAN elected/ejected Ind.
    Secretary of State.

    But, you are correct - the voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise
    voters does operate both ways...


  2. Older vets tend to vote Republican - hell, I don't know why. In the Tea Party, Social Security recipients rail against government welfare programs... So many people seem to choose policies contrary to their own best interest... Is it a lack of education, or have people so bought into religion, government and patriotism that they are no longer able to reason for themselves?
    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. The poor babies. If they miss out on voting, at least they can waddle on home and listen to gas bag Rush whine and lie about socialist sluts and Euro tainted socialist Democrats ....

  4. I'm not sure that is really unintended. Old people might tend to vote for the party that doesn't want to end Social Security and Medicare.

  5. Why give a fuck, voting doesn't improve things anyway. The way to change things, sadly, is with getting so pissed that you start shooting.

  6. Yah, don't worry, Diebold will vote for all those folks turned away from the polls. Their vote wouldn't have really counted anyhow, so what's the big deal?

    - Badtux the Tongue-in-beak Penguin

  7. I can honestly say I have never been asked for an ID when I voted. I give my address and that's it. Didn't reaize this was an issue until recently. Again, the media needs to cover these things so tey don't get voted through with people not understanding the consequences.

  8. I vote via the mail, they send me the ballots and I return them.


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