I looked, and there before me was a pale horse. Its rider was named Becker, and Lynch was following close behind him.
The Zealot of Union Township, ever-paranoid and stabbing at shadows, has finagled a new scheme to turn Ohio into a Voter Photo ID state.
Remember all those times you risk felony indictment by stealing your neighbors’ bills to impersonate them at the ballot box, scheming for one more vote for the winning team? No? Neither does anybody else, because nobody does that.
But because it never happens is not enough to dissuade state Reps. John Becker and Matt Lynch, R-Chagrin Falls, from attempting to force the state’s hand on a problem that doesn’t exist, and risk disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of poor Ohioans. Buoyed by the Ohio Christian Alliance, they are collecting signatures to put the matter before the Ohio House.
Nevermind that Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted put two in the head of an earlier Voter Photo ID proposal (and faces a tireless voting rights activist, state Sen. Nina Turner, in November). Nevermind that the Senate voted it down. Nevermind that a paragon of political neutrality, the League of Women Voters, vehemently opposes Voter Photo ID. Becker and Co. see a grand opportunity to puff themselves up and make a really futile and stupid gesture. They’re just the guys to do it.
The central indignity of the Voter Photo ID debate is that it’s a debate at all. The simple consensus should be that all eligible Americans should have available and equal access to the voting booth, as conveniently as possible, and the votes should be counted independently and fairly. That’s pretty basic for any democratic representative republic.
Of course, American history is a long bout of parry and riposte for and against the franchise. Andrew Jackson abolished property qualifications. The Civil War resulted in the constitutional extension of the franchise to non-white men. Women were granted voting rights less than 100 years ago. The Voting Rights Act, a masterstroke of legislative ingenuity and a salvo against a record of despicable injustice, was passed not even 50 years ago, though the Supreme Court decided last year as an early anniversary present to hammer out its teeth. Many wars were fought by conscripting 18-year-olds while denying them the right to vote.
The struggles to gain access to the polls and democratically participate in our self-government were often violent, and fought by good, regular folk, standing up to institutional inequality and demanding lawfully guaranteed civil rights.
Cher can’t turn back time and neither can we but we sure as hell don’t need to swallow the poison pill of Photo ID Becker and Co. offer with a spoonful of sugar, and turn our backs on the rights and access we’ve won.
We can reject bromides about “protecting things we value,” like a 3-year-old warning us to beware the boogeyman in the closet, the monster under the bed, and the floor that has suddenly and inexplicably turned into lava. These things are fantastical paranoias, as is voter identification fraud.
In fact, in most circumstances where voter fraud occurs, the voter in question has voted twice, or attempted to, both times as themselves, not someone else. The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School has shown time and again that while electoral misconduct needs addressed, photo identification would solve nothing.
The people of our self-government owe ourselves a good, honest conversation about what we can do to strengthen our elections, have all of our voices heard, and how we can inject as much democracy into our republic as possible. For us as an American family, it’s a dinner table conversation worth having, though it’s tough to get a serious dialogue going when the talk revolves around John Becker mimicking the sounds of flatulence with his hand in his armpit.