Voting rights advocates must stop saying 'Voter ID' when they mean disenfranchising 'polling place Photo ID restrictions'...
By Brad Friedman on 8/23/2012, 11:40am PT  

Please get it straight: the concern is about "polling place Photo ID restrictions" not "Voter ID".

I've tried to warn progressives about this for years, to little avail, but discussing concerns about "Voter ID" is akin (pun intended?) to talking about "Legitimate Rape".

After all, everyone is against "legitimate rape"! But using that phrase, as most instinctively seem to understand, allows for the misleading subconscious notion idea that there is some other kind of rape that is less "legitimate".

In the same way, "Voter ID" is quite reasonable sounding --- after all, who could be against the reasonable sounding idea of identifying oneself before voting? --- but Republican-enacted polling place Photo ID restrictions are a different matter all together. Republicans know that very well, even if Democrats still can't seem to get it.

Both phrases, "Legitimate Rape" and "Voter ID", each reasonable sounding enough, miss the point and are tremendously misleading. Republican vote suppressors know that, so they love it when Democrats and progressives and voting rights advocates use the phrase "Voter ID" instead of "polling place Photo ID restrictions."

The fact is, the majority of states already require some form of reasonable identification of voters before voting, at least at the polling place. For that matter, federal law --- the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 --- already requires "Voter ID" in all 50 states when voting for the first time at the polling place, if the voter did not register in person and present ID at that time...

So long as there are plenty of ways to identify oneself --- bank statement, utility bill, paycheck stub, driver's license, signature matching, even a signed affidavit (or, if the vote suppressors weren't just pulling a scam here, they'd suggest a cell phone photo taken of voters who can't present any ID at the time of voting) etc. --- "Voter ID" in and of itself isn't really a problem.

It is the restrictive, narrowly tailored state-issued Photo ID requirement restrictions at the polling place which are a problem, since some 22 million --- disproportionately Democratic-leaning --- legal voters in America, simply do not possess the type of ID required to vote under these new, GOP-enacted disenfranchising restrictions. And Republicans know it.

Here's just one example. In South Carolina, it has already been the law, for years, that voters present Voter ID before voting at the polling place. The state's already very strict law had required one of three types of ID be presented: 1) A state-issued drivers license, 2) A state-issued photo ID card, or 3) A voter registration card as sent to each voter by the county. The state's new Republican-enacted polling place Photo ID restriction law simply attempted to take away that third option, the voter registration card. (And, thankfully, that new restriction has been blocked, for now, as it was found to violate the federal Voting Rights Act, since it disproportionately disenfranchises African-American voters, according to the state's own data.)

When Democrats and progressives talk about concerns about "Voter ID", they are simply giving a gift to the Republican vote suppressors.

It took years of our banging the drum here to make clear the difference between "Voter Fraud" and "Election Fraud". While voter fraud is incredibly rare, and virtually non-existent at the polling place (the only place where polling place Photo ID restrictions could possibly deter it), election fraud, on the other hand, as usually carried out by campaigns and/or election insiders remains a very serious threat to elections. The voters are doing just fine. Leave them alone! A single election insider, however, thanks to privatized, untransparent registration and tabulation systems, have the ability to flip the results of an entire election in a matter of seconds with very little probability of detection.

Though it's taken years, most Election Integrity advocates and good progressives now finally understand the vast difference between "voter fraud" and "election fraud" and usually use the correct terms to discuss the correct thing, even as the Republican vote suppressors continue to opportunistically conflate those two terms to make their fake case for polling place Photo ID restrictions. But, when it comes to the fight against disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions, too many Democrats, progressives and even Election Integrity and voting rights advocates fall into the GOP trap of referring to harmless sounding "Voter ID".

Is it any wonder then that polls consistently show that a majority of Americans believe "Voter ID" laws are just fine, a fact that the GOP vote suppressors and "voter fraud" fraudsters are all too happy to trumpet when arguing how "reasonable" it is to simply "require voters to identify themselves before voting"?

That's been the long con trap that has been set by the Republican vote suppressors, and it's maddening to see so many good progressives still falling for it, even today, by playing into the bad guys hands and using that completely misleading phrase.

Earlier today I taped a segment on the David Pakman Show where this issue came up, so I thought I'd expand a bit more upon it here, once and for all. Not to single out David, since the problem comes up in virtually every interview I do on these matters, and every time I see any segment on TV or in the newspaper that deals with this. [Update: Here's my video conversation with David.]

Yes, words do matter in the fight for voting rights. The bad guys know that. So, how long will it take --- how many perfectly legal voters must lose their fundamental right to vote --- until the good guys finally figure it out?

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