Voter ID ‘Victim’ Argument Misses Points

Columbia’s The State recently offered a story about South Carolina’s new Voter ID law that has been passed, explaining why some people are so vehemently opposed to the requirement that photo identification be presented before one can vote.

The story focuses on a 59-year-old Charleston man who will not be able to vote if the new law is upheld because he has misplaced his driver’s license.


If you misplace your driver’s license, you pay $10, get another one and you get on with your life. Yes, you’ll have to wait in line at the DMV, but you’d have to do that, anyway if you’re planning on driving, since you’re supposed to have your license with you.

But there’s a catch in this case.

The man in question can’t get a replacement driver’s license for $10. In his case, he’s have to pay $160. It’s money he owes the DMV, the article explains, because he failed to turn in a license plate on time.

And apparently, since his driver’s license is still valid even though he can’t find it, he can’t circumvent the fine by getting a simple government-issued ID.

Opponents to the Voter ID bill say it’s “no more than an attempt to rekindle Jim Crow through a modern-day poll tax.”

Well, let’s look at this scenario, one of about 40 on display at a recent NAACP meeting.

If the guy hadn’t misplaced his driver’s license, an important legal document, there would be no problem.

If he had returned the license plates to the DMV when the law says he should have, he could pay the $10 for the replacement license and there would be no problem.

If he paid the fine from “years ago” that the DMV says he legitimately owes for failing to do what he was supposed to do when he was supposed to do it, he could now pay that $10 for the replacement license and there would be no problem.

But by losing his license and continuing to not pay a fine the DMV says he owes, it is he, not the Voter ID bill, who is causing this particular problem.

And then there’s this point: the next “big” election is in November of 2012. By my count, that’s 15 full months away. If he were to set aside $10.66 per month for those 15 months, he’d not only be able to get his license back, but he’d get square with the DMV, something any civic-minded citizen who’s this concerned about being able to vote ought to want to do.

If the folks who are putting so much energy in complaining about deep, dark conspiracies would put this same effort over the next year and a half into acquiring the documentation they should already have, they wouldn’t be turned away at the polls, and would therefore have no reason to be “disenfranchised.”

We all must follow rules, even when voting is involved. Ignore the speed limit, for example, and then try getting away with it when you tell the officer who pulls you that your right to vote is more important than any other rule, including those inconvenient little speed limits. Good luck with that.

There are some crimes that one can commit that will result in his right to vote being taken away indefinitely.

Not paying a license plate fine should never be one of those crimes.

On the other hand, maybe the failure to pay fines owed to the government should be. Maybe those who owe back property or income taxes shouldn’t be able to vote until their bills are paid. (Or, at the very least, until payment arrangements are made.)

And then there’s that final, lingering conspiracy issue. If this really is some ominous plan designed to keep a certain segment of people from voting (under a guise of requiring ID to prevent fraud), and this plan is defeated, what is there to then stop these same “conspirators” from hiring people to portray those same “disenfranchised” voters, vote straight-party for the right, and thereby prevent the real voter from being able to vote their way?

The lack of proof of one’s identity could just as easily cut the other way if no ID is really required. Why can’t the people who are so unwilling to see this as anything other than racism see that?


  1. @DianaCT Thanks for the response and the details. The examples you give are far more convincing in the argument against a Voter ID law than the man featured in the article.

    I think it should go without saying that if we are going to force the Voter ID issue, we should first make it possible for people to have the valid documentation. Cases as the one you cite in California, in which one must travel there to get a birth certificate in person, are absurd.

    At the same time, and this is coming from someone who has driven for 25 years or so, I really have a hard time imagining going through life with NO photo ID. I can understand not having a driver’s license. But I think that in a perfect world, all adults SHOULD have a basic ID.

    Here in South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley has pledged to make sure that those who don’t have a valid ID for voting will be able to get one if they call her office for assistance. It remains to be seen if she’ll keep that promise.

    Frankly, I’d be fine with voters being allowed to cast their ballot with other acceptable forms of ID. But I think everyone who votes ought to have to prove sufficiently that they are who they say they are. That, I don’t think, is so unreasonable.

    Still, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had to go through so much unnecessary torment in your situation. No one should think that is acceptable.

  2. Patrick, I usually agree with you on most issues, but on this I have to disagree.

    For most of us presenting a photo ID is not a problem because we drive. However, for many other voters it becomes a burden because they do not drive or they do not have access to their birth certificates. Which result in that they are disenfranchised from voting. If you live in the same place where you were born it is a minor problem to get an official copy of your birth certificate, but if you live in another city or state it could be a major problem. For low income people it might mean taking as day off from work that they cannot afford. They might even have to travel across country in order to obtain an official copy of their birth certificate. California requires you to get an official copy of your birth certificate in person. A friend had to fly from Connecticut to California to get a copy of her birth certificate so that she could apply for passport.

    Connecticut is going to the REAL ID Act in October and will require a passport or a birth certificate to get a driver license ID that will meet federal standards. This created a problem for me since my birth certificate still had my old name and gender listed, which I cannot change. However, under the new passport regulations I received a new passport with my correct name and gender, but how many low income people can afford to spend close to $200 to apply for a new passport and there still is the problem with obtaining the birth certificate.

    The next question to ask is why do we need the Voter ID law. Here in Connecticut, the following forms of ID is acceptable,

    <blockquote>Acceptable forms of identification to fulfill this federal HAVA requirement are a current and valid photo ID that shows the elector’s name and address, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or government document that shows the name and address of the voter.</blockquote>

    From the city of Norwalk voter web page –

    The Secretary of State here audits 10% of the city and towns for accuracy ever election and for the 2010 election they found only a fraction of a percent to be in error and that was mainly database errors and no voter fraud. In the 2008 elections in Connecticut the Republicans charged ACHORN with voter fraud and newspapers had banner headlines declaring voter fraud. The claims were investigated by the Secretary of State who found not one voter fraud case in the voter registrations that ACHORN submitted and identified as true voters (ACHORN by law had to submit all voter registrations that they collected and they divided them in to two piles one pile was voter registrations that they suspected to be fraudulent and it was this pile that the Republicans pounced on declaring ACHORN of voter registration fraud). But the findings were released over a year later after the charges were made, and when the report release it was located inside the newspaper not on the front page. On the national level voter fraud is also a non-problem. So why then are the Republicans pushing for voter ID bills? Why?

    In 2008 I was challenged by the Republican poll watcher, I gave him my driver license and he said it was a phony diver license because my gender was “F”, therefore it could not be my diver license. I also gave him my photo college ID which he also rejected. When the police officer came over and ran my driver license, he said it was valid and it was only then that the Republican poll watcher let me pass and vote.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.