Opinion: Daily Journal

It’s A Puzzlement — Or Fraud

RALEIGH – I’m not a black-helicopter guy. Really, I’m not. I don’t believe government is constantly engaged in conspiracies to shrinking our individual liberties and sell out the public interest, primarily because I don’t think most government officials are up to running a successful conspiracy.

Sometimes I get tempted to indulge my suspicious side, as is the case with the otherwise-puzzling burst of invective from many on the Left of the political spectrum whenever it is suggested that American voters should carry photo IDs with them to the polls. The most recent suggestion came from a famously racist, Republican hack by the name of Jimmy Carter. The former president co-chaired a panel with Republican James Baker that endorsed a list of election reforms, mostly praiseworthy or at least harmless, of which the photo-ID requirement was a notable element.

The Carter-Baker plan would, among other things, have governments provide such IDs free of charge to low-income voters who do not drive and thus don’t already have driver’s licenses. This was still not enough of a palliative for critics of the proposal who, reflexively, argued that it was a Republican plot to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

Try as I might, I cannot think of a reasonable defense of North Carolina’s current policy not to ask prospective voters at the polls to provide proper identification. If exercising the franchise is as important as we all say it is, why is it not as important as all of the routine personal and commercial transactions for which an official ID is required?

It makes me suspect that there is at least some voter fraud going on, that the benefiting politicians and activists know it is going on and think it justified in some way, and that photo IDs would actually put a stop to it. If voter fraud is no big deal, a myth propagated by unpopular Republican candidates who just won’t accept their political fate, then why not be willing to take reasonable steps to guarantee that? Indeed, it seems to me that having a voter system based on photo IDs might help clean up some of the confusion at the polling place that obstructs legitimate, disadvantaged voters from casting ballots.

I don’t favor excluding these voters from exercising their rights, regardless of whether their votes will tend to cancel out my own. In fact, I have previously argued against Republican attempts to exclude provisional ballots cast by voters outside their precincts, because it would be unfair to penalize these voters for following the provisional-ballot rules that had been established and published ahead of time – even if the rules were unwise.

Please, please, someone reassure me that we don’t have a group of very loud people trying to defend voter fraud.

Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation.