Voter ID and What It Means to Be American

The right to vote is held by all Americans to be a precious right, central to our American democracy.  The 14th Amendment to our social compact’s blueprint, our Constitution, makes this clear:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States[.]

and [emphasis added]

…the right to vote at any election…male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States….

The 15th and 19th Amendments extend this, making clear that the right to vote is any American citizen’s right, regardless of race or gender.  Notice that: the right to vote is a citizen’s right, and this right is not to be abridged in any way.

To support this, and to reduce the ability for one party or another to perpetrate voter fraud and thereby harm the sanctity of the citizens’ voting, the several States are actively enacting laws, centered on requiring photo IDs, to ensure that a prospective voter is both who he claims to be and a citizen and so eligible to vote.

Some argue that this is onerous and discriminatory: the elderly, the young, blacks, and so on do not possess photo IDs—one example offered being that many of these do not drive and so do not have the photo ID of a driver’s license.  These also argue that it’s too hard to get a photo ID at the last moment, on the way to a polling booth on the day of an election.  This is nonsense.  It’s just too easy to get a photo ID, including one that has the form of a driver’s license: it’s an ID any state issues to non-drivers explicitly for the purpose of identification.  The argument that it takes too much time to get a photo ID is little more than an insult to those who wish to get one; it says these people are too stupid to understand that there is an upcoming election, and so it’s time now, rather than later, to get the ID.  Further, the argument is fatuous.  The time spent getting the ID is a one-time cost—the IDs are renewable with even less expenditure of time, usually doable through the mail on the State government’s initiative.  The voter generally needs to do nothing more to renew his ID than to answer his mail.

Others argue that IDs of any sort are unnecessary.  Non-citizen immigrants, legal or not, as members in good standing of their communities, should be allowed a voice in the direction of their communities: they should be allowed to vote in elections.  Thus, with anyone allowed to vote, there is no need of any proof of ID or of eligibility.  This is a powerful argument on its face, but the argument is just that superficial.  Non-citizens are not members of their communities; they’re visitors.  They may be highly welcomed, and they may be highly productive and economically contributory, but the fact remains that, as non-citizens, they can only be visitors.  This does not leave them voiceless in the communities, though.  They are free to express themselves to their neighbors, they are free to take part in discourse in the public square, they are free to engage in any and all of the debates about our future that might occur.  But they cannot vote on the outcomes of those debates: they are not citizens, and so they cannot be members of their communities.

And yet the present administration objects to protecting this quintessential American right.  Instead, it’s launching, through Eric Holder’s DoJ, a campaign to block State photo ID laws on the basis of their alleged discriminatory nature.  Aside from this naked attempt to intimidate the States into diluting, rather than protecting, citizens’ rights to vote, though, it’s purely hypocritical: Holder doesn’t even mean it himself.  As Power Line has noted,

…people lined up to enter the LBJ Library to hear AG Holder rail against voter ID laws.   As each person entered the library they were required to present their photo IDs in order to be allowed in to hear the speech.

Non-citizens are, by definition, not Americans.  They may be here—they’re very likely here—under entirely legitimate means and doing very good work in the communities in which they live, but they’re not American.  Voting in an American election is part of what it means to be an American.  It’s wrong to attempt to dilute this fundamental right, this basic aspect of citizenship, by watering down the effect of an American’s vote, through which an American expresses his desire concerning the direction of his community and of his country, by allowing noncitizens to vote, also.  Indeed, such a dilution would seem to be an unconstitutional abridgment of the citizen’s right.

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