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Archive for Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Election respect

Presenting a photo identification card at the polls doesn’t seem like too much to ask of American voters.

October 11, 2005

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The right of Americans to go to the polls and vote for the candidate of their choice deserves more respect.

For instance, it seems like little enough to ask that voters present some form of photo identification at the polls.

Last month, the Commission on Federal Election Reform recommended a number of measures to increase efficiency and restore confidence in the nation's election system. Many of the recommendations are excellent and have drawn praise from officials and citizens.

Perhaps one of the most significant for many Americans is to require electronic voting machines to have a paper trail that can be consulted in case of a dispute or mistake. The report also recommends that presidential and congressional election days be declared national holidays so that both voters and poll workers would find it more convenient to participate in the process. Other recommendations would ease the process of voter registration and simplify the process for absentee voting by military personnel and other people who are out of the country on Election Day.

One facet of the report that has gotten less glowing reviews, however, is the proposal that voters be required to present a photo identification card in order to obtain a ballot. A story in Sunday's Journal-World reported on this issue.

Photo ID cards are required for all kinds of activities in today's society, but one local critic of requiring ID for voters said many people see the measure as a big-brother-is-watching infringement on privacy rights. The move, she said, also disproportionately would impact people who already don't vote: those without driver's licenses or cars and those in urban areas.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew agreed that, when voter participation already is low, it wouldn't be a good idea to require any additional effort from voters. "If you put one more barrier up," he said, "it may cause some people to say, 'I'm not going to go through the hassle.'"

When did the privilege of going to the polls in a free election become a "hassle"? This is a precious right that many Americans died to protect and many people around the world still are dying to obtain. And it's too much trouble for Americans to present a valid photo ID to obtain a ballot?

The commission report puts more emphasis on maintaining accurate and up-to-date voter registration rolls and calls for free voter ID cards to be issued to people without driver's licenses. These are steps that would add to, not detract from, the integrity of national elections.

The perfect situation would be for every voter to come to the polls informed about the candidates and ready to cast an educated ballot. They would find voting such an important task that they would be happy to verify their identity and participation by presenting a photo ID.

Maximizing voter participation is a laudable goal, but it seems there may be a point at which voting rules become so casual that they diminish respect for the democratic process. Election officials are making many efforts to attract more people to the polls; being willing to verify their identity with a driver's license or other ID doesn't seem like too much to ask of voters.

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