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Column: True intent of Voter ID laws is voter disenfranchisement

By Kyle Garner, candidate for State Representative, 52nd District

The current push across the nation for voter ID laws began with a court decision in 2008 upholding Indiana’s voter ID law. The majority opinion of that case was written by Judge Richard Posner, a conservative justice appointed by President Reagan. Judge Posner, in an extraordinarily rare instance, has since reversed his thinking, saying he made a mistake in that case.

In 2013, Judge Posner was clear on his view of voter ID laws, saying first that “[The Indiana voter ID law is] a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention” even going so far as to say Judge Terence T. Evans, was “right” in his dissent, which read: “Let’s not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID Law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.”

Kyle Garner

Judge Posner now laments “We weren’t given the information that would enable that balance [between fraud prevention and protecting voters’ rights] to be struck.”

The reason for the stark reversal by one of the most highly respected and influential judges in the country is that we now have that information which was unavailable to the court in 2008. In person voter impersonation, the only type of fraud stopped by voter ID laws, is effectively non-existent. In over 1 billion votes cast across the country from 2000 to 2014, only 31 credible instances have been found. In Missouri, there hasn’t been a case of in person voter impersonation since 1938.

On the opposite side of the coin, thanks to a thorough study from the University of California, San Diego, we now have data from 51 different election cycles since 2008, covering multiple states showing the true effect of voter ID laws. Before voter ID, elections typically saw Republican voters turning out at a slightly greater rate than Democrats. After voter ID, the turnout gap more than doubled, moving from a 2.3 percent higher turnout in favor of Republicans to a 5.6 percent advantage over the Democrats.

To defend voter ID laws that will stop legal voters from exercising their right to vote, Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly said this: “The real reason the left wants to make sure that individuals without voter ID are allowed to vote is because they are expected to vote for Democrats.”

In the spring of 2012, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader, Republican Mike Turzai described the effects of voter ID before a GOP rally, saying the new Pennsylvania voter ID law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” as it would make it harder for traditional Democrat demographics to vote

Don Yelton, former North Carolina GOP Precinct Chair described the goals for their voter ID law: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks… so be it. The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt.”

Missouri Representative Bill Kidd (R-Independence) recently said that disenfranchising voters “may be an unintended consequence, but it’s not the intent.”

To most people, “unintended” doesn’t work like that. If there are known results of passing a law and lawmakers vote to pass that law, any consequences are fully intended. Coupled with the evidence given in the quotes from those pushing for the law, the true intent is clear.

In Missouri, the Republican Party has been fighting to implement voter ID for more than a decade. The law has previously been struck down by the State Supreme Court, which ruled it unconstitutional. The Court ruled that such a law would be an undue burden on voters. To get around this, the Republicans have proposed changing the Constitution in order to saddle this burden on voters. Rather than writing the law to comply with the Constitution, the proposal is instead to change to Constitution to allow for an unjust and unnecessary law.

The fiscal cost of voter ID is equally indefensible. According to the fiscal note attached to the bill, in the first year alone voter ID will cost Missouri nearly $11 million to implement. Another $6.5 million dollars will be added over the next two years resulting in over $17 million in initial costs in order to solve a problem that does not exist.

What this means, is that lawmakers are aware of the cost and those that voted in favor of implementing voter ID approve of the cost. However, no proposal has been made which would fund the measure. This is a completely unfunded mandate.

Meanwhile, our roads aren’t being fixed, our schools aren’t being funded, and our state workers continue to make less than their counterparts in every other state in the nation. This is fiscal malfeasance of the highest order. Instead of spending our tax dollars to benefit the people of Missouri, those wanting voter ID have prioritized voter suppression over Missouri’s needs and they’re using public money to do it.

The claim that without voter ID the entire election system is invalid is baseless. We have had elections for centuries without voter ID and our democracy has not crumbled. In an ironic twist, voter ID itself is a direct attack on individuals’ right to participate in our democracy. It strips from legal voters their ability to have their voice heard.

Even if the claims of in person voter fraud were true, which they are not, the reaction is disproportionate. Striping the ability to vote from hundreds of thousands of voters in order to stop dozens of hypothetical cases of fraud is unjust. It goes against the very notion of a free democracy, and it is a direct attempt at silencing the voice of the people.