Nobody was too surprised that the voter ID amendment passed in November. The argument for voter ID is easy. We need photo IDs to do a lot of things besides voting. We need them to get into bars. We need them to pick up prescriptions from pharmacies. To people who don’t live and breathe politics, a voter ID at the polls makes sense.
I’m not as against the idea of an ID as I am against the motivation that spurred the movement. We never heard much about voter fraud from conservatives until Barack Obama won the presidency and, then suddenly, it became epidemic. In reality, the GOP played on fears to drive the narrative.
Large numbers of undocumented people were voting, they claimed. Groups of Democrats were organizing people to vote multiple times. None of it was true, but that didn’t matter. It served its purpose to motivate the base to claim voter fraud. The answer was to make voting harder, especially for groups that the increasingly populist Republican base suspected were committing fraud.
Today, conservatives argue openly that we need to make voting more difficult, not easier. Jonah Goldberg, a mainstream conservative with anti-Trump bent, says in his talks that he believes voting needs to be harder. With the fraud down in Bladen and Robeson Counties, expect the GOP to propose more restrictions.
The history of making voting difficult in this country is not pretty. Women didn’t have the suffrage until 100 years ago. African-Americans were denied the right to vote through Jim Crow laws. Native Americans were not allowed to vote in some states until 1957. Restricting access to the polls has never about protecting the sanctity of our democracy. It’s always been about restricting access to power.
So, as we go through this exercise of implementing a voter ID bill, let’s not pretend that we’re solving any real problems. As we’ve seen this year, in-person voter impersonation is not the problem. Crooked operators are. The real solution to reducing election fraud is more diligent Boards of Elections with more power, not less. The real threat to our democracy is not voter fraud; it’s limiting the checks on authority that voting provides.
The whole voter ID movement is a concoction of Republican operatives who want to restrict access to the polls for people they think will support Democrats. They got their way. The rest of us need to work around the problem by making sure everyone who wants to vote can.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >