Thirty states are now requiring voter IDs in order for people to vote. Estimates show that as many as 21 million citizens do not have a government issued photo ID and are subject to being found ineligible to exercise this fundamental right. According to the U.S. Census, there are 207 million citizens in this country. The result of these new voter ID laws will be that over 10 percent of all citizens are at risk of being blocked from voting today. This is clearly a matter of security for our homeland. If ISIS, al-Qaida or any external power interfered with our democratic process and were able to keep 1 in 10 Americans from going to the polls, we would take swift and decisive action.
This issue affects not just local or state election outcomes, but also our federal elections and the management of our government through state redistricting. The federal government should and must step in. The Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, can and should immediately send out mobile units to register any eligible citizens to vote and issue federal voter ID cards to U.S. citizens who need them. As President Carter said, a free and fair election requires both ballot security and the fullest access to voting. These efforts could begin in those states that have expressed the greatest interest in ballot security and enacted specific voter identification requirements. Federal voter ID cards would not take the place of other government issued identification, such as driver’s licenses and passports. However, they would fill the gap for those citizens who otherwise lack access to such government identification. Anyone convicted of fraudulently trying to obtain such a card, including those trying to discredit or test or game the process, would be guilty of a felony.
With a defense budget of over $700 billion and a Homeland Security budget of $38 billion, we have already secured sufficient monies to provide for the common defense and to promote the general welfare. The right of the people to vote and have their say in their government is our most central tenet. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That being said, the Republican Party came into existence during the middle of the 19th century, in part, to ensure in the words of Lincoln that ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people, should not perish from the earth.’
Ballot security is important, but no more or less so than ballot access. We must work to see that both are present for all Americans. Those who would seek to block voter security or voter access are working not for America interests, but against them. It is hard to imagine who would support a speaker arguing that America should be blocked from developing, adapting and adopting the latest upgrades and improvements to military technology, from whatever their source. We must lead the world in this regard. Thus should we support those who would block us from developing, adapting and adopting the latest processes and technologies that upgrade and improve our citizens’ rights and their access to vote?
Just as other democracies around the globe have done, America has the ability to upgrade and lead the free world in citizen participation in democracy. Weekend voting works, we can do it here. Same day registration works, we have already done it here. State and national/federal photo identification works and we can and should do it here. America cannot claim to be the leader of the free and democratic world without also serving as the leader of the democratic process, the heart of which is enabling, encouraging and supporting every citizen to vote, everywhere, every time.
There are politicians who have been caught arguing and voting for laws to suppress voters and their votes just to keep themselves or their supporters in office. When this happens overseas, we call them dictators and fascists and the enemies of democracy. Anyone from any party who acts to keep any American from the polls is all that and more. Nowhere in the world should elected officials get to choose who gets to choose elected officials.
We are long overdue in reforming our election processes. Each election that takes place under the current restrictive conditions weakens our nation, weakens our belief in our country and our leaders and strengthens our enemies at home and abroad. We can start today by having the president roll out the first mobile ID units and preserve the voting rights of as many Americans as we possibly can.