Monday, October 23, 2006

Common Sense

The Supreme Court decided on October 20th that it was too close to the upcoming November elections to suspend a new Arizona law, requiring voters show ID in order to cast their ballots. Amanda Crawford, at The Arizona Republic, explains the situation:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that Arizona can go ahead with requiring voters to present a photo ID, starting with next month's general election, as part of the Proposition 200 that voters passed in 2004. The ruling overturns an Oct. 5 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which put the voter ID rules on hold this election cycle.
The Supremes didn't decide on the constitutionality of the Arizona law, as that decision is still pending from a lower court, but did make the determination that the 9th Circuit made a "procedural error" in issuing an injunction delaying implementation of the Arizona rules, because the 9th didn't wait for an explanation from the lower court that had previously refused to grant the same injunction. Wow, all this wrangling over procedure, and none of it's even about whether it was okay for Arizona voters to make ID mandatory, but rather just about whether the appeals court should have overturned a lower court without listening first. And we wonder why things take so long to move through the courts. Did you notice that the Arizona proposition was passed in 2004?

Whatever the basis for the decision, the results are the same; if you want to cast a ballot in Arizona, you will have to provide ID this time around, regardless of whether the law will hold up to future constitutional scrutiny. Of course, it takes lawyers to figure out the legality of such things, but what blows me away is that there is any debate, among lower forms of men (i.e. non-lawyers), about the general common sense and decency of such a rule. I find it amazing that there is even a question about whether requiring identification is acceptable. Why wouldn't it be? Crawford sheds a little light on the issue, but the argument against ID seems pathetically weak on its face:
The new voter ID rules were passed, in part, to keep illegal immigrants and other non-citizens from voting. Opponents have argued that legal voters, especially the poor and the elderly, might also be disenfranchised because of the rules.
This argument seems to imply that the elderly and poor somehow manage not to need ID for any other aspect of their lives. I'm sorry, but that just doesn't hold water. The implication that the voting booth is the first place old people or poor people will ever need to prove they are who they say they are, or that they live where they say they do, is patently ridiculous. It would take far more effort and trouble to find a way to get by in the modern world without identification, than it would just to get the darned ID in the first place--unless, of course, these people never need to pay a bill, cash a paycheck (or welfare check/social security check), or even receive mail. All that's being required here is a photo ID, showing a current address, or two other forms of ID with the voter's name and current address, such as bills. What is unfair about that? Anybody living anywhere with an address has such kinds of proof by default.

Maybe some think that it's unfair to require an address at all, let alone proof. That's as silly as the concept that old people have managed to live a long life in America without the need for identification. Voters have to have an address just to register. Arizona has the right to keep voters from Massachusetts from voting in Phoenix, or transients-for-hire from bouncing wherever the highest bidder wants to take them to fill out weak party numbers. You can't tell me it's unfair to require an address--otherwise, what's to stop political parties from shipping in as many people as are needed to win an election in any given place, ferrying around warm bodies to reach the victory threshold? Good grief, by that standard, it's unreasonable for the citizens of Arizona even to expect its voters be American citizens!! Heck, ship 'em in from Mexico, if that will win the election for you!!

Could we get a little common sense here? I'm glad the Supreme Court decided the way it did in this case, and that, at least for now, Arizona can go ahead with such a reasonable voting standard, but it's appalling that such a decision was even required in the first place. I'm pretty disgusted that there are people who would tie up the courts trying to stop a rule that seems so basic and fair that you'd think this was one thing on which everyone could actually agree. I have to question the motives of the people who would buck this. I tend to give most people the benefit of the doubt--my husband says I'm far too naive--but the only real reason I can think of for trying to prevent the voter ID requirement is that the people who object want to cheat to system, and the new rule will make that harder. Call me skeptical, but the "disenfranchisement" argument is so weak that it must be a front for less honorable motives. That's just common sense.