By Nancy Jane Moore
I woke up this morning to a news report that the Republican-controlled US House passed a bill requiring citizens to present photo IDs to vote in 2008 and proof of citizenship in 2010. The Kansas City Star reports on it here.
Proof of citizenship? Can a national ID card be next? After all, most US citizens don't have passports -- an article in the Canadian foreign policy newsweekly Embassy puts the number of US passports at 20 percent.
And how good is a birth certificate for ID really -- they don't come with pictures. It would be so much easier just to make everyone have a national ID card, with photo, social security number, RFID chip, GPS locator . . .
All my life I've heard Americans -- particularly very conservative Americans -- gasp in horror at the very idea of a national ID card. We require immigrants to carry a card showing they're allowed to be here, but if you're a citizen, you don't need to show no stinkin' ID. It's part of our heritage.
And yet here's the right wing Congress, looking to change all that, and blaming it on "voter fraud." Clearly it will disenfranchise the poor. Look at the problem with the new Medicaid rules, where they are requiring birth certificates and other proof of citizenship of people who are poor and often uneducated. There are still some people in this country who never had a birth certificate -- particularly older African Americans who were born at home in the Jim Crow South. But now an elderly woman with Alzheimer's living in a nursing home must show she's a citizen or get kicked out on the street.
Funny that they should take this vote a week or so after the Maryland primary showed up all the technical glitch problems with fancy new electronic voting machines -- the problems in wealthy, sophisticated Montgomery County, Maryland, were legion. And, of course, we all know the story of the vote counting problems in Florida in 2000 and the problems at the polls in Ohio in 2004. Even if you don't think those problems were caused by partisan officials trying to not count some votes or keep their opponents from voting, the lack of quality vote counting was a disgrace.
As computer security experts keep pointing out, many of the new electronic voting machines are not only subject to bugs and glitches, they're hackable. Here's an essay by Bruce Schneier pointing out how electronic voting should be done if it's going to fix our voting problems instead of making them worse.
No one knows how many non-citizens sneak in and vote every year, but I bet the number is minuscule. After all, look at how few citizens vote: 60 percent in the 2004 presidential election -- and that was considered a good turnout.
But the potential for real fraud from hackable voting machines is very real. And the problem of disenfranchisement by partisan election officials has already been documented.
As usual, Congress is ignoring the real problem and fixing something that doesn't need fixing. Can it be that their real goal is to keep people from voting?