Veasey v. Perry has gotten a fair bit of media attention (as it should, given the importance of this litigation), with some pull quotes from the opening statements, and a little bit of background on the purpose and effect of the 2011 voter I.D. law adopted by the Texas Legislature. (Rick Hasen at electionlawblog.org offers links to the the major news outlet coverage, here: http://electionlawblog.org/?p=64883, http://electionlawblog.org/?p=64861, http://electionlawblog.org/?p=64847, and here http://electionlawblog.org/?p=64859. I’m quoted here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-02/texas-voter-id-trial-seen-as-test-for-restoring-u-s-oversight.html
As with all stories involving voter I.D., the comments sections of online sources reflect the knee-jerk defenses of the adoption of picture i.d. requirements. Most of these defenses can be rejected out-of-hand as meaningless or irrelevant to the debate over restrictions on voting.
Internet Talking Points on Voter I.D.
1. Voter I.D. is no big deal – since everybody’s gotta have I.D. anyway.
This is the kind of argument made by someone who hasn’t actually read the 2011 Texas law, which excludes the use of many forms of I.D. that voters might actually be able to scrounge up. It’s also the kind of false generalization that one can easily fall into when one has sufficient means and resources to have a driver’s license, a commonplace-seeming sort of picture I.D. that is unavailable to a significant segment of the voting population.
2. Poor people must have I.D. because otherwise they couldn’t cash their welfare checks.
This fairly distasteful argument conflates a number of stereotypes (implying that the “poor” are a monolithic group of welfare recipients who are simply being obstructive, slyly hinting that Texas voter I.D. laws keep the riff-raff from voting, and ignoring the distinction between the broad range of acceptable I.D. for financial transactions and the narrow range of acceptable I.D. for participating in the democratic process in Texas).
3. We had to do something to make sure the illegals didn’t vote.
This quite inflammatory statement perpetuates the falsity that (1) illegal immigrants subvert elections, and (2) that voter impersonation and illegal voting would occur but for the protections offered by the Texas picture I.D. law. Of course, the statement also panders to bigots, and encourages the broad stereotyping of immigrants as threatening, seditious outsiders plotting our downfall.
The quality of online debate being what it is, one is justified in regarding supporters of the 2011 Texas voter I.D. law with weary resignation. A rejoinder with links to reputable sources isn’t likely to cause any committed bigots to go through a “road to Damascus” conversion experience, where the scales fall from their eyes and they renounce their prior ignorance.
But once in a great while, formerly ignorant persons will throw off their shackles and open their eyes, sometimes because of a personal experience that leads to an epiphany, and sometimes because a seed of doubt is nurtured by an inherent suspicion of appeals to authority.
In the hope that at least some supporters of the 2011 Texas law could imagine that they might be wrong, I offer the following links to reputable sources:
An Overview of Pending Voter I.D. Litigation
Goldfeder, Jerry, and Myna Perez, “Proving Who You Are: The Legal Battle Over Voter I.D. Laws” (N.Y. Law Journal, June 4, 2014) (available at http://www.stroock.com/SiteFiles/Pub1495.pdf).
The Incapacity of Voter I.D. Laws to Significantly Affect Actual Election Fraud
Gilbert, Michael, “The Problem of Voter Fraud” (SSRN draft, pending publication in Columbia Law Review, 2015) (available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2488645).
Pitts, Michael, “Empirically Measuring the Impact of Photo I.D. Over Time and It’s Impact on Women” (SSRN draft, pending publication in Indiana Law Review, 2015) (available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2479500).
The Lack of Evidence of Actual In-Person Illegal Voting
Levitt, Justin, “A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible cases out of one billion ballots cast” (Washington Post, August 8, 2014) (available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/).
The Discriminatory Impact of Voter I.D. Laws
Bentele, Keith, and Erin O’Brien “Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies” (Perspective on Politics, Dec. 2013, pps. 1088-1116) (available in draft form at http://cdn.umb.edu/images/cla_p_z/Jim_Crow_2_0_-_Bentele.pdf).
Barreto, Matt, Steven Nuno, and Gabriel Sanchez, “The Disproportionate Impact of Voter I.D. Requirements On the Electorate – New Evidence From Indiana” (available at: http://faculty.washington.edu/mbarreto/papers/PS_VoterID.pdf).
As my high school history teacher liked to say, “Use your god-given brains, people!”