There are two major problems with this meme.
First, there are several things on this list that you can do without an ID. For example, you can board an airplane without a picture ID (admittedly, with difficulty).
You can receive treatment from a hospital without a picture ID. If you stagger into the Emergency Room with eighteen knives sticking out of your back, they are going to treat you even if you thoughtlessly left your ID at home in your haste to avoid dying.
You can pick up prescriptions from some pharmacies without an ID – you just need a birthdate.
You can buy a gun from a private dealer without an ID. In fact, the only requirement for buying a firearm privately is that you have to somehow convince the seller that you’re less than fifty percent skeezy. Somebody really should fix that.
Now certainly you need identification to do most of the other things on that list, but that’s where the second big problem comes up. You see, voting is a right, unlike most of the other activities in this meme. It’s specifically protected by the Constitution, which means that all citizens (barring felons) can and should participate.
I take that back: in some states you might not be able to cast your ballot unless you have a government-issued photo identification. Since the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically forbids any kind of poll tax, these identifications must be provided free of charge to anybody who wants one. And why might a person need a photo ID before he or she can vote?
Voter ID laws presumably prevent voter fraud. Well that’s a relief. We mustn’t let election results continue to be skewed by the nearly non-existent voter fraud that’s going on.
At any rate, it should be simple to get an ID, right? Again, not so much. In too many situations, voters have found themselves unable to obtain a voter identification in time to participate in the election process.
So we’ve got a completely unnecessary law that serves no apparent purpose except to make life harder for people who aren’t doing anything wrong. Where have I heard this before?
The people who draft these bills and vote them into law must know that they are throwing a lot of political power at a tiny problem. You wouldn’t use a cannon to kill a fly, nor would you mobilize the entire army to stop jaywalkers. Why spend so much time and energy on voter ID laws when there are real and pressing problems to solve?
As usual, I will answer my own rhetorical question. It’s a bid to acquire or to maintain political power. How, you ask? By effectively disenfranchising people who are not likely to vote for you.
Studies show that voter identification laws disproportionately affect young minority voters, especially those who live in poverty. Minority voters are ten to twenty percent more likely to be asked for identification than white voters, and many would-be minority voters reported that voter identification laws actually kept them away from the polls. Voter ID laws aren’t stopping fraud; they amount to fraud.
But hey, it’s not like a few hundred thousand disenfranchised voters are going to swing the result of an election, right? I mean, wouldn’t you expect the stymied votes to be spread evenly among the two major political parties?
No, you wouldn’t. Minority voters – especially black and Latino voters – tend to vote Democrat. Also, minority voters represent one of the fastest growing voter blocks in the United States. If Republicans cannot build a solid rapport with minority voters (and their efforts have been cringe-worthy), then their next best idea – sadly – is to suppress them. It’s no coincidence that the majority of states which have enacted stringent voter identification laws are controlled by Republican conservatives. Please find enclosed this Venn diagram that illustrates my point.
So now we must address the final point of the meme. Are Voter ID laws racist? Surprisingly, that’s not as clear cut. Texas brazenly announced that it discriminated against Democrats, not minorities, when it redrew its voting districts in a way that diluted the power of Hispanic voters (as if that makes things any better). Still, one cannot help but think that even if voter ID laws are not explicitly created to harm minorities, they have that effect, and the people who create and champion those laws are awfully insensitive to that fact.