The U.S. Supreme Court took a good first step yesterday in its decision to uphold Indiana’s requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls.
I don’t like the idea of having to carry identification, but I like less the idea that elections are decided by people who shouldn’t be voting (dead people, for example), or by people voting more than once.
What the Supreme Court wasn’t asked to look into in the Indiana case is absentee balloting, and more generally, voting by mail. These are two increasingly used voting methods that threaten the validity and integrity of elections.
The un-secret ballot. Ideally, voters should have no one looking over their shoulder as they cast their ballots. Between making your decision and casting your vote, there should be no chance that another person can say, “Hey, I’ll give you $5 if you vote for Joe Blow” or “Hey, I’ll kill you if you vote for Joe Blow.” Unfortunately, voting by mail allows this. That’s why the secret ballot in an election booth is so important.
On the photo ID question, some worried that many poor and older people don’t have photo driver’s licenses. Well, we can get photo IDs for them. Indiana’s law provided for that.
Democrats said the photo ID voting law would hurt them at the polls, either because an unusually large portion of Democrats don’t drive or because Democrats depend on illegal voters. And yet, a year after photo ID passed in 2005, Indiana Democrats won three new congressional seats.
No voters, no votes. It seems odd and absurd that the same people who spent months with magnifying glasses studying the 2000 Florida ballots for dents and hanging chads could be totally uninterested in whether the people who vote, vote legally.
Now let’s ban voting by mail, and let’s talk about restricting absentee ballots to the most exceptional circumstances, with safeguards.
Every voter’s vote should count as much as ever other voter’s. Let’s do all we can to protect this essential principle of democracy.