My stance on voter ID laws is pretty simple: as long as it is easy for residents to get an ID, I’m in favor of them. You can’t fish without an ID in some parts of this country so I see no reason why voting shouldn’t require an ID. Most other countries require them. While I don’t think there is the massive vote fraud Republicans allege, I don’t think the problem is as minuscule as Democrats like to pretend (it’s kind of hard to measure how much voter fraud is going on when you don’t require ID). Voter ID seems a fairly minimal requirement … if an ID is easy to get.
Democrats, of course, have been milking this issue for a while now, claiming this is really about suppressing the votes of black people. This week, they seemed to get a big confirmation of that:
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s website says their office at the Clarke County Courthouse is still open, but soon a lot of others nearby won’t be. On Wednesday, the agency announced that it would close 31 offices throughout the state, leaving 29 counties without a place where 16-year-olds can take a driver’s test, whether they pass on the first try or not.
That’s an inconvenience.
But there’s something bigger happening here.
In 2011, Alabama lawmakers approved the state’s voter ID law, making it illegal to vote in Alabama without a government-issued photo ID.
For most folks, that’s a driver’s license.
Depending on which counties you count as being in Alabama’s Black Belt, either twelve or fifteen Black Belt counties soon won’t have a place to get a driver’s license.
Counties where some of the state’s poorest live.
Counties that are majority African-American.
So the state is shutting down DMV’s in counties that are mostly black. Sounds like the Republicans are trying to stop black people from voting, right? Well …
Secretary of State John Merrill, Alabama’s chief election official, said late Wednesday that the state’s closing of 31 county driver’s license offices won’t leave residents without a place to get the required I.D. card to vote.
Merrill said state election officials “will issue (photo voter I.D. cards) on our own” at county Board of Registrars offices. “Every county has a Board of Registrars,” he said.
Merrill said his office will have brought its mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama by Oct. 31. He said the van will return to counties when requested. “If they can’t go to the board of registrars, we’ll bring a mobile crew down there,” Merrill said.
So … no, this isn’t going to shut thousand or millions of black Alabamans out of the polls. It just changes where they’re going to get their IDs. Now it’s not clear that the registrars can handle this, so it’s worth keeping an eye on. And we should be aware of the expense involved in getting some of the documentation needed for an ID (e.g., birth certificates). But it’s clear the initial headlines were overblown.
I’ll pretend to be surprised.