Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Only Western Democracy

I've been getting a lot of quality NPR time of late.  Today I was listening to a show where they were discussing Pennsylvania's new voter ID law.  They had a guy on from the right and a guy on from the left.  It appeared to me that the moderator was fairly left of center.  The guy on the right was actually fairly interesting as he came off as sort of a benign academic shill for obvious party politics.  He kept giving dry, unpolitical analysis and explaining why this was a good idea why everyone on the phone or in the studio kept trying to goad him into admitting it was about cutting down democratic voting (it is clear this was the intent, regardless of the academic reasons for doing it; someone on the PA House floor said upon passage: "this will deliver the state of Pennsylvania to Governor Romney" or some other equally inappropriate comment).

It was fun to listen to both sides trying to prove a future hypothetical negative: "this will suppress turnout" - like you can prove who didn't vote that would have, and "this will reduce voter fraud" - like you can tell it was there in the first place.

"I was going to vote fraudulently but the new ID rules stopped me."

Right, like that will happen.  I you're motivated, you're motivated.

I have to admit to being a little worried about this.  I have two government issued IDs but neither of them has a current address.  I admit I don't know if this matters.  I have a little card the state sent me with my new address on it but it isn't a photo ID.  What about an expired ID?  The TSA won't let you use an expired ID to board a plane, as if after the expiration date it ceased to be your picture.  What potentially worse about the laws is the way they'll be used.  Who is the enforcement agent here?  The volunteer running the poll site?  How well are they trained?  How well are they supervised?  How well will individual voters know the laws?  There is absolutely nothing to stop people from spreading misinformation to try to influence the turnout.

I think the original intent, ages ago, would have been that the voting districts would have been small enough that the registrar of voters would recognize everyone by sight.

But this is all aside from my point.  My point is that at one point in the NPR segment the guy on the right said "We are the only Western Democracy without rigorous voter ID standards."

I was taken aback immediately.

The guy on the left argued that while they do have stiff regulations in many other countries, in those cases the actual process of getting the ID is less onerous than it would be here.  OK, but I think he missed the opportunity.

The real response is "are we allowing that as a reasonable defense for policy now?"

Since we're pretty much the only Western Democracy without...

manditory paid vacation...
reasonable gun ownership restrictions...
single payer health care...

If suddenly "We're the only Western Democracy without..." is a reasonable defense I might just fold on voter ID to get the other things.

But that's not the way the segment went.  Too bad for that.

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