The idea of requiring some sort of photo identification in order to enter a government building or board an airplane fazes no one. Asking the same of a person wishing to cast an election ballot gets Democrats running to the court house, where lately they have had success.
On one day last week, three states — North Carolina, Wisconsin and Kansas — saw their voter ID laws get rebuked by various courts. These followed a
federal court ruling earlier in July that said Texas’ law was discriminatory and needed to be softened before the November election.
Thirty-three states require some form of ID before a citizen can vote in person. Oklahoma is among them, and our law has worked just fine. The popularity of the idea was seen in the 74 percent approval it received from voters when the law was established via state question in 2010.
Oklahoma requires voters to show a photo ID (such as a driver’s license) issued by a state, federal or tribal
government. Voters also may present the free ID card available from their county election board. Or, failing any of these, they can request a provisional ballot.
Opponents of voter ID laws say they place undue burdens on minority voters and the poor, who traditionally tend to vote Democratic, and thus serve to suppress turnout. Yet after Georgia’s law took effect in 2008, 65 percent of the black voting-age population cast ballots. No doubt Barack Obama’s run for the presidency helped to drive that, but even two years later, 50.4 percent of registered black Georgians voted — an increase of nearly 8 percent from 2006.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s strict voter ID law in a 6-3 ruling written by liberal
Justice John Paul Stevens. But the Obama administration has gone after these laws in a number of states, including North Carolina and Texas.
On Friday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia blocked the North Carolina law, saying lawmakers had targeted blacks with “almost surgical precision.” The law provided for six acceptable forms of ID, and also reduced the number of early voting days and did away with same-day registration.
North Carolina lawmakers in 2015 added a “reasonable impediment” option to allow voters who couldn’t produce an ID the option of casting a provisional ballot. As one judge noted in her partial dissent, the legislature had amended the law before the requirement ever went into effect. “North Carolina recently held two elections in which the photo ID requirement, as amended, was in effect,” she wrote. “The record, however, contains no evidence as to how the amended voter ID requirement affected voting in North Carolina.”
In the Kansas case, a county judge said the state must count votes cast in local and state elections by people who didn’t provide proof of U.S. citizenship when they registered. And in Wisconsin, a federal judge struck down a number of laws, including restrictions on early voting and absentee voting. That state’s voter ID law remains on the books, but with several limitations. Two years ago, a federal appeals court had found that Wisconsin’s law was “materially identical” to the Indiana law upheld by the Supreme Court.
These rulings will embolden Democrats and their nominee for president, who wants as few restrictions as possible on voting. She sees it as a right instead of an extraordinary privilege — one that should require a modicum of responsibility on the part of the voter.
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