Voter ID: Get Over It, and Get Out the Vote

by James A. Bacon

I didn’t see any pressing need for the Voter ID law in Virginia but now that we’re going to get one, I don’t see the need to get all agitated about it. In signing the Voter ID legislation into law, Governor Bob McDonnell issued an executive order instructing the State Board of Elections to issue voter cards to every Virginia voter by election day and to launch a public education campaign to raise awareness for the need to bring an ID card to the polling place. (See the press release.)

The idea that African-Americans and Hispanics will be disenfranchised by the thousands is a paranoid conspiracy fantasy peddled to whip up the fears of minorities. Really and truly, it’ s nothing but race mongering.

Why am I so confident that the impact on voting will be minimal?

First, because of McDonnell’s aforesaid prophylactic measures: issuing cards to voters and launching a public education campaign. And second, because Democrats, like Republicans, spend massive sums in get-out-the-vote efforts. How much effort will it take for Dem organizers to make sure every potential Democratic voter has a proper ID card?

Someone was certainly effective in persuading convicted felons to vote in 2008. (See “What Do You Know, There Is Electoral Fraud in Virginia?”) If minorities fail to turn out in the hoped-for numbers, blame the Democratic Party for running an inadequate get-out-the-vote effort.

And if a handful of people slip between the cracks, well, it won’t threaten the democratic system. The Bacon family knows what it’s like to be deprived of the right to vote. (See “Voter Suppression through Bureaucratic Lethargy.”) I dare say that the problem of registering people moving in and out of the state will be a far bigger problem than “voter suppression” by a dozen times over.

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  1. larryg Avatar

    I was curious how absentee voting works in Va. Do you need to present photo ID every time you vote absentee?

  2. The last time I voted absentee, I had to show ID to get my ballot.

  3. larryg Avatar

    so you have to show up in person every time you vote absentee?

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Back to the future.

  5. Peter , how do you address the fact that a white person would have been allowed to vote in Eric Holder’s name? It’s not that hard to have ID, which is needed for everything else. It’s all about casting illegal ballots.
    For example, my daughter is a student at NC State and lives much of the year in Raleigh. Should she be able to vote in North Carolina elections? She has a Virginia drivers license; drives a car with Virginia plates; files Virginia state income tax and lists a Virginia address on her federal return. Of course not. She has a right to vote absentee in Fairfax County.
    But I have an acquaintance who argues reelecting Obama is so important that students might not actually vote absentee such that students should be able to vote without photo ID in their college town. Talk about out and out fraud! I don’t know who my daughter might vote for — that’s her business, not mine. But she is a resident and domiciliary of Fairfax County, Virginia, and that’s the only place she can vote lawfully.

  6. larryg Avatar

    ” Completing an absentee ballot application
    Virginia law prescribes that Applications for absentee ballots shall be completed in one of the following manners:

    In Person

    An application completed in person shall be made not less than three days prior to the election in which the applicant offers to vote and completed only in the office of the local general registrar. The applicant shall sign the application in the presence of a registrar or the secretary of the electoral board.

    By mail, electronic or telephonic transmission to a facsimile device

    Applications can be made by mail, electronic or by fax, if one is available to the office of the local general registrar.”

    So I ask one more time…. do you have to show photo ID to vote absentee or perhaps I should ask HOW the registrar applies the SAME Photo ID rules for voting in person or voting absentee?

    more explicit: do people who vote absentee have to show up in person EACH TIME and show their photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot?

    or do we have a different rule for absentee voting?

  7. larryg Avatar

    Here’s the question. Are the rules for absentee voting different than for in-person voting?

    How do absentee voters present Photo-ID to be verified ?

    How do people who live overseas or soldiers get Photo ID’ed?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      LarryG –

      I vote absentee all the time since I am outside the state on election day. I just hand them my driver’s license and voter registration card. Then, they look me up – either on a big print-out or via computer or via telephone call to some other place. I assume this is to verify that I am on the voting rolls in the district where I claim to live. Once they verify this, they point me to the right voting machine (for my district) and I vote.

      Since I always present ID, I don’t know what would happen if I didn’t. I get the impression that I’d be allowed to vote anyway. Of course, I vote absentee in person, in advance.

      Military personnel must need an address in Virginia for voting purposes. Otherwise, which state senator and/or delegate would they vote for. So, I assume they request a paper absentee ballot, fill it in, mail it in and it is processed. I’d guess that they verify the name and address and make sure that only one vote is voted in any given election for that name and address.

      I must say that I find Jim’s logic here a bit odd. He rails against wasteful government spending. Then, he admits that we don’t have a voter fraud problem. So, when the Imperial Clown Show in Richmond wastes God knows how much money on an un-necessary voter ID process – what does he do? He says he doesn’t see the need to get all agitated about it.

      Hmmmmm …..

      As for Virginia Richmond of Rich, VA (pictured in the sample driver’s license) – she certainly looks younger than her 61 years. Of course, I assume that Ms. Richmond from Richmond has led a low stress life waiting for things to “bubble up”. Or is the low stress life in Richmond only available to upper middle class white people?

  8. DJRippert Avatar

    A quick check of Google Maps confirms my worst fears. It seems that Ms. Virginia Ann Richmond of 2300 West Broad St in Richmond, VA lives in a parking lot. Call Cooch the Pooch! This is an obvious case of voter fraud. Also, her customer number of 777 – 77 – 8888 is just a little too convenient and tidy. Thank goodness that the state will be issuing voter cards by election day. It seems that the DMV has been compromised by wild – eyed young liberals posing as 61 year old women living in parking lots. It’s times like this that I am glad to send my taxes to Richmond so that people like Cuccinelli can protect me from the hallucinations that seem to go through his head on an ongoing basis.

  9. larryg Avatar

    ” I assume they request a paper absentee ballot, fill it in, mail it in and it is processed. I’d guess that they verify the name and address and make sure that only one vote is voted in any given election for that name and address.”

    if you would do this for one voter why not another? Why the different treatment if ID of the voter is the law?

    do we have different classes of voters where some get a less rigorous validation than others “because”?

    In a country where we say one man – one vote – why do some have to present photo ID in person and others do not?

  10. Yesterday, I voted for board members (McLean Community Center Governing Board) at McLean Day. I had to present my photo ID and tell them the name of my street. I was checked off on a list of registered voters, but had to initial the check-mark. Then I was given a ballot, which I marked and deposited in the ballot box. It seemed pretty reasonable to me.

  11. larryg Avatar

    ” It seemed pretty reasonable to me.” How would you feel if someone could just mail an absentee ballot in without being “checked”?


  12. Larry, I am a bit concerned about your question. It seems to me as if something is missing.

  13. larryg Avatar

    TMT.. what? My basic premise here is that it appears to me that there are different standards for Photo ID depending on whether you vote in person or absentee.

    what is missing?

  14. Here is a link to the federal application to vote in a federal election.

    And the link to the state form for voting in non-federal elections.

  15. larryg Avatar

    well.. no photo ID per say.. but “presenting” ID in person vs “presenting” ID absentee.

    what is the risk of fraud on absentee ballots?

  16. madness Avatar

    You don’t have to vote in person to vote absentee. You can request a ballot by mail, declaring that you meet the conditions for voting absentee, and then return the ballot by mail. However, when returning the ballot by mail, you need to have a witness also sign for the legitimacy of the person submitting the mail-in ballot. Anyone can witness (doesn’t have to be a spouse) – not sure if age limits apply – but someone witnessing for a fraudulent ballot may open themselves up to possible prosecution. (That part is speculation by me, guessing that there is probably something in the law.)

    So no, it never will be exactly the same way. But it doesn’t have to be, either, IMO. Mail-in ballots have operated this way for at least 25 years (from when I would vote absentee while out-of-state at college), and it’s probably the reasonable accommodation for handling this type of situation. It certainly doesn’t eliminate the risk of fraud, but is probably the right middle ground for minimizing it without undue burden.

    Requiring they all operate the same way is a red herring – the key is determining if the standards are sufficient for the risks that they entatil. And having served as a poll officer for several years, I can tell you some rather interesting stories about attempts to vote and some of the reasons presented for trying to get access. The thing I cannot figure is that the level of obvious incidence seems small, and yet the elections are rarely close enough for one to really want to attempt something like this. Unless it really is better hidden than one assumes.

  17. larryg Avatar

    in terms of fairness in voting – it needs to be the same IMHO – otherwise you’re justifying discrimination for one class over another.

    If there is a concern for fraud – then the solutions need to apply equally to all prospective voters ESPECIALLY when you are citing potential fraud as a reason to restrict voting for some – but not others.

    Why would you cite stories of people “trying” to vote in person illegally and dismiss out of hand such things for absentee voting?

  18. larryg Avatar

    I would think a court challenge on this would result in a requirement that there be a single standard for ID and that it apply to all voters.

  19. madness Avatar

    I dismiss, because it is impossible to eliminate it 100%. I don’t think that this is going to eliminate it for in-person voting either. But anecdotally, as someone who was on the front lines on election day for several years, I believe the efforts do exist. Just because there are not prosecutions doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But I also don’t necessarily think it’s a big problem, either. Honestly, the prior rules were actually pretty effective for handling the situation already.

    Ideally, you decide on a level that you think will deter most effectively without being burdensome, and because of the different methods of voting, you’re going to have to have different standards. Then again, I don’t think that’s the thought process that went into making these recent standards, either – I doubt any cost/benefit analysis went into it at all.

    It’s strange you think it would fail in court, because separate standards have existed for decades so far without a challenge or being deemed unequal. In fact, in your view of a single ID standard applied everywhere, absentee voting by mail would not be possible because there is no one to officially check that ID. (Election officers have to swear an oath to get that official capacity, something that a remote witness could never do.) That WOULD disenfranchise easily thousands of voters , whether students away at college, military overseas, etc. – those who already have a way to vote. And it would be impossible to settle on a single standard to satisfy all different ways of voting unless there is no check made at any level of the voting process – whether voting in person or voting by mail.

  20. larryg Avatar

    ” That WOULD disenfranchise easily thousands of voters , ”

    so you’re willing to disenfranchise one class of voters but not the other class?

    I think if the class that feels it is being discriminated against did go to court and did invoke the Constitutional requirement of equal treatment – one of two things would happen:

    1. the legislators would revisit the restrictions and realize they are discriminatory

    2. – do the deed and apply it to everyone –

    Don’t you find it the least bit ironic that you call the very same restriction on one class as a “disenfranchisement” if applied to the other class?

    are you not admitting that those who vote in person are, in fact, being disenfranchised also?

    so you’re okay with using one standard for students, military and overseas but a different standard on grandma living in the same county?

  21. madness Avatar

    I don’t find it ironic, because there is disenfranchisement already built into the system. Have you moved to another part of the state, or even the county, after the deadline to register in your new location? (Hint – the deadline is typically 3 or 4 weeks ahead of the actual vote date.) If you didn’t remember to vote absentee, you’re technically disenfranchised with your level of concern. When I worked the polls, I was guaranteed to get between 2 and 10 of those cases every time (at least for general elections; depending on the type of primary, you might not see one). And that’s for 1 precinct.

    I get it. You’re concerned. So am I – to a point. But it’s not 100% possible to enfranchise every possible voter who shows up at the polls. That’s why there are provisional ballots – for those cases that cannot be sorted out over the phone with the central office while the voter waits. And some real voters get turned away – every time. I’m sorry we don’t live in a perfect enough world for you, or that you can somehow project how a court would rule, given the rather complex (and sometimes onerous) voting laws and guidelines have to follow (set at both the state and federal level).

    And if you didn’t follow along, let me state again – the new law is near useless and does little to truly close the gap or stop the possibilities of fraud. All I need is a utility bill or a voter registration card (no picture ID there) and my vote counts.

    BTW, I don’t see #1 happening. That’s been the strategy up to now, and it worked for a few sessions, but you’ve seen how cowed the current Clown Show (as one poster on here puts it) was by all of the publicity. A court case (which is guaranteed to follow) isn’t going to make them change their mind any time soon. And as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think #2 is going to fly, because it results in thousands no longer being able to vote. It’s going to take#3 – enough changeover in legislators to possibly repeal it several sessions from now, if it’s even an important issue that gets pushed through committee. It’s going to require legislators to keep pushing it until it isn’t the law any more and enough turnover to replace those who did vote for it.

  22. larryg Avatar

    ” I’m sorry we don’t live in a perfect enough world for you, or that you can somehow project how a court would rule, given the rather complex (and sometimes onerous) voting laws and guidelines have to follow (set at both the state and federal level).”

    Well, I’m not looking for a perfect world but if we are going to pass new/additional laws that selectively disenfranchise certain classes of people – then people have a right to seek a remedy. In a “perfect world”, we’d have no legal challenges at all and we’d have new laws that don’t have the effect of discriminating against people.

    By the way, isn’t it true that ANY qualified voter can vote absentee for Federal electors for any reason?

    ” Any registered and qualified voter may request a mail ballot for presidential and vice-presidential electors only by writing across the top of their absentee application “request ballot for presidential electors only.” A voter who votes a “presidential only” ballot may not later decide to vote the rest of the ballot. The same procedures and deadlines apply as for other absentee applications and ballots.”

  23. madness Avatar

    Yes, but you have to remember to vote absentee in advance. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people in the polling place on election day, who moved and thought that by changing their driver’s license, they changed their voter registration. (Nope – still doesn’t, as it still requires an explicit process and I believe form, though it can be turned in while changing driver’s license.) Or those who moved within the county, but went to the polling place close to their new home, thinking being in the same county was sufficient. (Unfortunately, no – you have to go to your old polling place within a year of moving, as long as you haven’t registered to vote in your new location.) And all of the other situations possible.

    And unfortunately, those legitimate votes don’t get to vote that year. (Well, if they want to drive to their old voting location, it would count. Just gotta get there by 7pm.)

  24. larryg Avatar

    so… if the Dems wanted to increase voter participation in national elections, they could ramp up in advance of the actual election day and provide people with the paperwork they need to mail in absentee ballots… and basically revert back to the previous “fraudulent-prone” process?


    then WHAT would the GOP do? You’d have all these fraudulent voters finding another path to cast fraudulent votes!


    Oh Wait. This whole exercise is basically window dressing red meat for the right wing anyhow.


  25. madness Avatar

    If you actually read my responses in full (assuming it was meant for me and not Jim, who takes a different position than me, but has chosen to not try to have a conversation with you), you would know the answer to your question.

    But to your first paragraph, your strawman falls down, because there is no reversion – it’s still the same process it always was for voting absentee by mail.

  26. larryg Avatar

    it’s the same process for absentee… but that was never my point.

    my point is that you have two separate standards for voting.

    One for in person and one for absentee.

    And you have “extra” fraud measures enacted for in person while not also enacting an equivalent and consistent approach for absentee.

    there is no strawman here. In my view, it is a clear cut case of targeting one class of voters for treatment different than is used for the other class.

    We are worried about fraud for in person voting but not for absentee voting.

    this proves to me what this is really about….and it’s not fraud prevention.

    we can agree to disagree if you wish but my point stands.

  27. larryg Avatar

    ” because there is no reversion – it’s still the same process it always was for voting absentee by mail.”

    but if you’re going to tighten up the restrictions on in-person voting, what keeps those folks from moving over to a less strict absentee voting?

  28. larryg Avatar

    the more I go back over the dialogue here the more I become convinced that I do not understand your basic points.

    the dialogue seems “choppy” and subtle rather than direct and to the point.

    Can you state in a simple sentence exactly what your point is with respect to the difference between in-person and absentee voting in terms of measures to mitigate potential fraud?

    Are you in favor? opposed? what would you do if you were King?

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