The Problem With Voter ID Laws

A few weeks ago, I offered a compromise to fix our electoral system. It involved Democrats accepting Voter ID laws. Part of the thinking behind that argument is that Voter ID laws can be implemented fairly if they are implemented 5-10 years in the future, and if they are implemented carefully. 

The problem is that in today's reality, voter ID laws aren't implemented fairly. Not even close to it. 

Exhibit A of this practice comes from Texas where a woman was denied a driver's license because of her same sex marriage.  Now this story mentions nothing about voting. But, Texas is a state that has a stringent voter ID law (so stringent that it snagged former Speaker of the House Jim Wright last year). 

In fact, the Voter ID law is strict enough that a Judge who had voted for 52 years was prohibited from voting last year because her driver's license listed her maiden name as her middle name, whereas the voter rolls had her given middle name. 

Now putting aside the utterly disgusting bigotry behind Texas' treatment of gay marriage, essentially what we have here is a $500 poll tax. To get a driver's license, someone in a legal same sex marriage, who has changed his/her name accordingly, must pay $500 for a Court Order. 

But without that valid photo ID, the person can't vote in Texas. The birth certificate that Speaker Wright was able to use to procure his non-driving ID card wouldn't work for someone in a gay marriage, because the name on the birth certificate would be different. 

And there is no way that in 2014 a fee for voting should be legal. You can argue that in this regard, this type of voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act. You can go further and argue that it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. And it most certainly violates what we ought to stand for morally in 2014. 

In the abstract, Voter ID laws seem sensible. After all, you can't get into a bar between the ages of 21 and approximately 40 (sometimes older if you age gracefully) without a photo ID. 

But when implemented in the stringent manner that Texas has implemented its voter ID law, voter ID laws become immoral, and they ought to be illegal. 

Voting is the most fundamental right in our society, and it should trouble every American that after several centuries of expanding the franchise, and making it easier to vote, we seem to be taking steps backward. 

We are waiting on a ruling from a Federal Judge on Texas' Voter ID law, but it should be a no brainer. The Court should strike the law down, and ensure that if it can't be implemented in such a way so as not to impede any Texan from voting, it be consigned to the dust bin of history.