PERRY/Hoseman solves voter ID problems
Wednesday, December 19, 2012 12:00 AM
Proponents of photo voter-ID in Mississippi argue we must secure our elections against fraud including a requirement that all voters show proof they are who they claim to be when they vote. Otherwise, someone could steal someone else's vote and even vote multiple times. Opponents claim this is a solution in search of a problem, and it would create a process which would prevent some voters from participating in an election.
I've seen what I suspected to be voter fraud; I've interviewed victims of voter fraud; there are documented cases of voter fraud: this is a real problem that needs a solution. But what of the claim that some legally registered voters would not be able to participate because they do not have identification?
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann released a report last week by Edison Research which conducted voter interviews of nearly 6000 Mississippians at 30 polling locations during the past election. The polling locations represented a balance of voter population, race and partisanship using the same methodology Edison uses to conduct presidential exit polls. The Secretary of State paid for the $34,000 study from the $100,000 budget authorized by the Mississippi legislature for obtaining expert research on the new voter identification law.
The research found over 98 percent of Mississippi voters already possess one of the eight forms of voter identification needed under the new law. The demographic group least likely to possess identification needed for voting was African-American households making less than $30,000 a year. Only 97 percent of that group had the identification necessary. Edison suggested, "Efforts to identify Mississippi voters who currently do not have photo identification should concentrate on targeting those in households with annual incomes less than $30,000, younger adults, and African Americans."
So while the vast number of Mississippi voters would face no impediment on election day due to photo voter-ID, the study demonstrated that fewer than two percent would need identification assistance. Voter-ID opponents could claim this is proof of their argument. But Hosemann addressed those objections.
Some people cannot afford to pay for an identification card and requiring one would be very much like a poll tax. Hosemann solved that problem. Voters can get their photo voter-ID card at no cost to them by supplying the materials needed to register to vote under the federal Help America Vote Act, such as a birth certificate.
But if you need a birth certificate to get an identification card and need identification to get a birth certificate, how can you get the ID you need to vote? Hosemann solved that problem. By working with the Department of Vital Statistics, all a voter without any materials or a birth certificate will need to know is when and where they were born.
In rural Mississippi, some people live far from their circuit clerk's office or may not have transportation to get their identification card. Candidates and parties sometimes provide transportation to these voters on election day, but what about getting their card? Hosemann solved that problem. By working with the Department of Transportation, no cost transportation services will be provided to take a voter needing help to and from the circuit clerk's office.
According to the study, nearly all Mississippi voters already have a photo voter-ID. Those who do not can get one at no cost, get a ride to their circuit clerk to obtain it and if they lack any identification, will be assisted in getting the necessary proof.
There is voter fraud that could be stopped with photo voter-ID; and now there will be no impediment to obtaining that ID. Everyone wins with secure elections and full access.
The burden of getting a photo voter-ID has been exaggerated by opponents of the laws. For example, the plaintiff opposing a Pennsylvania voter-ID law lost her case in federal court and the next day she registered to vote despite the obstacles she claimed prevented her from doing so. An opponent of a Texas voter-ID law claimed she did not have a photo ID or the documentation to get one. Under cross examination in federal court she admitted she in fact did have the documentation (birth certificate, voter registration card, social security card) but claimed she didn't have time to get one. She did however have time to fly from Texas to Maryland, catch a train to Washington DC and sit for hours during a federal trial to testify.
When international election observers visited the United States this November, they were amazed many states do not require identification to vote. Our southern neighbor Mexico requires biometric photo voter-ID cards renewed every ten years and verified by a thumb scan of the voter at the polls.
Voter-ID is a basic election safeguard; and under Mississippi's law, no eligible voter will face any burden to acquire that identification.
Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.