by Paula Harkins
Let me get this straight. I’ve got to show a valid ID to dine out or take a spin class… but not to vote?
A growing number of Virginia businesses, restaurants, and venues are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a photo ID to enter. Richmond was the first Virginia locality to mandate vaccination of its state employees, including those who telework. Private organizations across the state are requiring their employees to be vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test regularly, often at the cost of the employee. D.C. venues like Kennedy Center and Lincoln Theater require vaccination proof or a negative COVID-19 test along with a matching photo ID to attend live shows. Gyms such as Equinox and SoulCycle are requiring proof of vaccination to enter and workout at their facilities. The SoulCycle Standard states, “When it came down to putting new safety measures in place, we went above and beyond the guidelines.”
Fairfax County’s “COVID-19 for Businesses, Organizations and Employees” webpage states, “Vaccines are good for SALES: As people begin to return to a new normal way of life and revisit their favorite places, knowing that the people who work at the establishments they frequent is reassuring.”
According to The Washingtonian, I can walk into a DC restaurant right now, e.g., Maialino Mare on Tingey St. or The Crown & Crow on 14th Street, and I must show my COVID-19 vaccination card and a matching photo ID to enter. Since I haven’t visited any of these lovely eating establishments lately or ever, I’m curious if these establishments provide the same courtesy to their customers. Specifically, will the host, server, chef, chef team, dishwasher, and anyone else around the food served provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination? Or for that matter, hepatitis vaccination, HIV/AIDS vaccination, drug screening. Any well-organized establishment should have these records on file, and I should trust that, right?
Isn’t trust a two-way street? I mean, after all, I have my vaccination card stashed safely in my files and can attest that I’m vaccinated. But, oh, wait, you want me to prove to you that what I’m saying is true and that I shouldn’t expect the same from those who are touching my food?
The restaurant industry has suffered from the pandemic. And now we want to insert a process that could negatively impact sales even more. Good for sales, Fairfax? Many would argue that a dinner out without a mask and without proof of vaccination is not worth the harm it could cause to the public. Just wear the mask and show the card. Maybe so.
Let’s switch gears for a moment and examine another scenario, our voting process.
If you research the following key words… Virginia… Voting Requirements… Voter Identification Laws… you will find that 36 states have laws requesting or requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. The remaining 14 states use other methods to verify the identity of voters.
A National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) webpage provides a visual of each state and its voter ID laws (see figure below).
Even more interesting, if you hover over DC, it states “District of Columbia… N/A.” Not applicable? Not applicable to what? They don’t have ID laws? They didn’t want to share their ID laws on this site? So, I searched the following key words… Washington, DC… voter laws… ID… and this is what I found… “If you are already registered to vote in Washington, D.C., you generally are not required to bring anything to the polls on Election Day.”
Oh, wait, D.C. I don’t have to show proof to vote, but I must show proof of vaccination status to eat dinner. Hmmmmm…
NCSL goes on to explain that “Proponents see increasing requirements for identification as a way to prevent in-person voter impersonation and increase public confidence in the election process. Opponents say there is little fraud of this kind, and the burden on voters unduly restricts the right to vote and imposes unnecessary costs and administrative burdens on elections administrators.”
Burden… unduly restricts rights… unnecessary costs…
When I see things happening around me like restaurants asking for my COVID-19 vaccination card but no mention of an ID when I vote, I ask myself… Where’s the alignment? Where’s the commonsense? Why is it one way here, but another somewhere else? Why must I show proof in one situation (what am I having for dinner) but not required to show proof in a far more consequential activity (voting for president)?
I can’t watch a live show at Lincoln Theater without showing my COVID-19 vaccination card and ID, but I can walk into a voting poll and cast a ballot without any proof of who I am. How can SoulCycle go above and beyond guidelines to ensure the safety in its spin classes, but our voting polls do not?
Dr. Paula Harkins lives in Northern Virginia.