Identifying Voters

Conservatives, with their majorities in a dozen states, have pushed for new voter identification laws and got them. The requirement is that an elector produce a piece of government-issued identification including a photograph of said citizen before casting their ballot.

Strange, that the majority winners of the previous election allege rampant election fraud. They either admit to illegitimate election victories (unlikely), or they believe their margins of victory were smaller than they ought to have been (equally unlikely in most cases).

Unidentified electors may cast provisional ballots, returning later (within a few days) to present their photographic identification. In some cases, if they know the poll workers, they can skirt the identification requirement by having the workers swear to their identity.

Critics claim that the requirements attempt to reduce opposition voting. That is, to derive political advantage through limiting the ability of the electorate to vote in opposition. This claim comes from the fact that their political opponents’ constituents tend to be in situations where they may not possess existing viable identification documents.

A variety of voters may be harmed by the requirements. Newlyweds and the divorced whose names have changed (more common amongst women), and do not yet match their identification, for example. Also affected are minorities and the poor, fewer of whom are licensed to drive.

The problem may not be the requirement for identification, ultimately, but the lack of access to the identification. It would seem reasonable to require that polling places be augmented with the ability to issue photographic identification that meet the new laws’ requirements. This is no different than the capacity to obtain a library card at, wait for it, a library.

But taking it a step further, we should move away from the current identification-issuance systems. Digital cameras are widely available in mobile devices, and the requirement to verify identity can be done in a variety of ways, including via notaries public, post offices, banks, and other businesses and institutions that already have need to verify identities.

Take your picture (or take 20 of them, since bytes are cheap) and send them to the registration system. Then, at your leisure, take five minutes with an identifying institution to provide them with proof of residence and they can vouch for your photograph. When we (eventually) move to cryptographic signatures, they could also digitally sign your identification.

But none of these improvements to the identification laws were considered, because the design of the laws are malignant. Unbalanced laws, that do not consider both how to accomplish their stated purpose and how to minimize harm are laws not worth the paper they’re written on.

Had they considered both sides of the issue in passage of these laws that disenfranchise, we might still have to show photographic identification at the polls, but we would have a stronger identity system for the trouble. That stronger system could bootstrap small businesses and create positive economic impacts, rather than simply allowing a doomed party to meander a few more years.

The Republican party needs to modernize their positions and, in doing so, align themselves with growing demographics. Instead they continue to try to hang on and deny the reality of voting trends.