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Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele repeatedly claimed that 99% of Pennsylvania voters had a photo ID that would allow them to vote. But now that they passed their voter ID law, Aichele’s department did a cross check of the voter registration rolls against the database of people with state ID (typically driver’s licenses). And you know what? They found that 9.2% of the voters don’t have a state ID.

That’s three-quarters of a million people. And in urban areas like Philadelphia (which tend to vote Democratic), the percentage is as high as 18%. People without driver’s licenses tend to be poor, elderly, or young. That’s more than enough to throw an election.

So it should come to no surprise to anyone when Pennsylvania state Republican leader Mike Turzai said at a Republican State Committee meeting last month “Voter ID – which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done”.

But that’s not as bad as the situation in Mississippi, where in order to vote you need a photo ID from the state. But in order to get a state ID, you need a copy of your birth certificate. And, of course, in order to get your birth certificate, you need … wait for it … a photo ID from the state.



  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Given my experience at getting jobs, you need a photo id and a birth certificate. How do people in these states get jobs?

    Saturday, July 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  2. TJ wrote:

    Having a job is not a prerequisite for voting.

    Saturday, July 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Permalink
  3. ebdoug wrote:

    And owning property used to be the requirement. Implying someone needs a job to vote would eliminate some of those who owned property. We are all enfranchised as long as we register. I think all the states that disenfranchise their voters like PA should have their electoral votes disqualified.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    You guys missed the point of my comment.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink
  5. Arthanyel wrote:

    Intentional voter disenfranchisement is inherently evil, and should be stopped.

    That said, having as a basic requirement that all citizens have some form of photo identification is NOT UNREASONABLE. You need them to travel, to find work, to use banks – no one should be against the idea that people should get an ID. And therefore, basic ID should be FREE.

    But that’s not what these laws are doing. They are just trying to freeze out voters, and THAT is wrong.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    Anonymous, your point was that most people have to have ID anyway in order to get a job. However, there seems to be plenty of people (old, poor, young, disabled), who don’t have an ID. And people have the right to vote even if they do not have an ID.

    Arthanyel, I would agree with about requiring ID being reasonable, except that it isn’t. First, voter fraud is not a problem in this country. And second, what little we do have is committed by people who have ID, so requiring ID will hardly help stop it.

    If voter fraud were a problem, then it would be reasonable to require ID. But it isn’t.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  7. Arthanyel wrote:

    IK – I wasn’t talking about voter fraud, which I had thought I had made clear. Requiring citizens of the US to have a photo ID is reasonable. Not to stop voter fraud (because it doesn’t really exist) but because there are good reasons to require citizens to have valid identification. IF it was a universal requirement, AND it was free, only AFTER that would it be reasonable to require it to be shown to vote. But that’s not what they are doing- they are making up restrictions to disenfranchise people, and that is evil.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Permalink
  8. Michael wrote:

    “having as a basic requirement that all citizens have some form of photo identification seems NOT UNREASONABLE.” Fixed that for you.

    There are, in fact, very real and legitimate arguments against such a requirement. First, who sets the standards of what is and is not allowed? Are states so empowered, or would there be federal standards? The former would be very problematic, especially when it comes to religious clothing such as hijabs. That pesky Bill of Rights… What about student IDs issued by state universities? Some states currently accept them, while others don’t. The objections to those typically center around lack of expiration date and residency information. What if someone shows up to vote with an ID that expired the day before? What if it expired 20 years before? What about reciprocity and people moving? If all that is required is a photo ID, would someone be able to vote in Kansas with an ID issued by Ohio? What if Ohio issues an ID with no anti-forgery technology, making Ohio IDs trivial to forge?

    How do you get a photo ID (which requires photo ID as a proof of identity) when you don’t have a photo ID or birth certificate? Should Constitutional rights depend on having proper documentation, or are they guaranteed? What if your state only issues photo IDs with an embedded (unsecured) RFID chip containing your SSN, address, date of birth, and biometric information, and you refuse to put yourself at such risk? Should you be stripped of your Constitutional rights for that? If you can be denied the right to vote for such a stance, what is there to stop the government from denying you the right to due process?

    REAL ID was proposed as an answer to all of this, but there is considerable opposition. Any time you’ve got Pat Robertson’s ACLJ, ACLU, Cato, AFL-CIO, and the Wall St. Journal against a piece of legislation, you know there’s a problem.

    I would argue that the claim that a photo ID requirement is reasonable is specious, and such requirements should be opposed. The requirement raises significantly greater problems than any that it solves.

    Monday, July 9, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  9. Arthanyel wrote:


    You raise some interesting points, however some of your arguments are fallacious or irrelevant. And none of them, I believe rise to the level of “very real or legitimate” objections.

    Who sets the standard must obviously be the federal govenrment, if the requirement is one for all citizens. States couldn’t do it, so all the commentary about states or universities might do is irrelevant. Any organization may set its own rules for identification, which has nothing to do with whatfederal law should require for citizen identification.

    Religious clothing, or anything else, is irrelevant. Having a requirement to have something that identifies you doesn’t imply you need to wear it on your forehead. In virtually all states (and possibly all of them) walking around with no money or credit cards and ID is ALREADY A CRIME. If you can carry money, you can carry an ID card. No Bill of Rights violations required. And if you have ID and leave it at home in box, you still have it and can produce it if necessary.

    Your statement that getting a photo ID would require having one already is silly and fallacious. When you get your first drivers license, or your first passport, you do not need a photo ID. There are multiple appropriate ways to identify yourself that do not require photo ID, as you undoubtably know from getting one yourself.

    And your next point makes everything clear. You state “Should Constitutional rights depend on having proper documentation, or are they guaranteed?” Guaranteed to whom? Guaranteed to terrorists from Yemen that have snuck into the country to plant a bomb? Guaranteed to aliens that landed from Mars? Guaranteed to criminals that escaped from prisons in Mexico and fled here? Consitutional rights are guaranteed TO CITIZENS. And therefore having a requirement to demonstrate that you ARE a citizen is not unreasonable at all.

    Voting is the least of the issues, because it would be statistically almost impossible to create enough “voter fraud” with real human beings to impact an election, and that is the only kind of voter fraud that would be prevented by requiring a photo ID. I also oppose fake laws desgined to disenfranchise voters that serve no other real purpose.

    But saying that because citizens have certain rights means it is illegal, immoral, or unreasonable for us to have a way to demonstrate that they ARE citizens doesn’t make much sense.

    Monday, July 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink
  10. Michael wrote:

    Arthanyel, I must say that I am quite disappointed by your response. Your posts on this forum are generally thoughtful and insightful, even if I don’t agree with your point. Your previous response, however, falls very short of your normal standard.

    “Who sets the standard must obviously be the federal govenrment [sic].” This is exactly what REAL ID does. 25 states are refusing to participate. I pointed this controversy out in my previous post, and you seem to have completely ignored it. The fact is that the federal government ALREADY has a law in place mandating standards for state issued IDs, and there is very widespread opposition. For someone who frequently espouses libertarian viewpoints, I’m quite shocked that you don’t seem to be familiar with this law or the controversy surrounding it.

    “Religious clothing, or anything else, is irrelevant. Having a requirement to have something that identifies you doesn’t imply you need to wear it on your forehead.” Huh? You completely missed the point. Can a devout Muslim who wears a burqa or hijab wear such an article for their “photo” ID? Or would exercising one’s voting rights entail violating one’s religious beliefs by removing the article to get their picture taken? If an officer is trying to identify a woman, does he have the right to force her to remove her burqa so that he can check that her ID matches?

    “In virtually all states (and possibly all of them) walking around with no money or credit cards and ID is ALREADY A CRIME.” Um, wow, no, no, no, absolutely not. Not even close. If you have any shred of evidence, I would like a citation please. Here’s my reference: “While there are no state laws requiring citizens to carry ID of any kind [emph. added], many states require you to identify yourself if police have reasonable suspicion to believe you’re you’re involved in criminal activity.” ( The requirement to identify yourself upon request does not entail presenting any form of ID. Yes, you can be detained until the officer has confirmed your identity, but it is not a crime. Again, if you have any evidence to back up your claim, I would like to see it.

    “Your statement that getting a photo ID would require having one already is silly and fallacious.” Did you not see the link the IK put in the original post regarding Mississippi? Here is the document for a Virginia ID card. If you look through the Primary Documents (at least one of which is required), they are almost all photo IDs. The one major exception that US citizens would have is a birth certificate. Oops. You need a photo ID for that. So you need a photo ID to get a birth certificate, which you need for a photo ID. Luckily, the vast majority of us have enough documentation when we are young to bootstrap the process, as you point out. However, it is quite possible that an elderly person without a photo ID lacks a birth certificate, perhaps in a house fire.

    “Consitutional [sic.] rights are guaranteed TO CITIZENS.” You might want to be careful with such a blanket claim, because most are guaranteed to individual persons, not citizens. Voting is different, though, as the Constitution mandates each state implement a Republican form of government, and voting in a Republican government is assumed (though not required…) to entail citizenship. Where this gets a little sticky, though, is that the 14th Amendment explicitly states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” It does not state that one must prove citizenship in order to exercise the privileges thereof. One can reasonably argue (though I think this is actually a weak argument) that the photo ID requirement can abridge the privileges of some small group of citizens, which would violate the 14th Amendment. Again, though, I do think that’s a stretch so I typically eschew such a claim.

    To go back to my original point, there are quite reasonable objections to a photo ID requirement. As I said before, see such a requirement creating more problems than it solves, and a simply cost-benefit analysis encourages the status quo. And I do find it a dangerous precedent that one must prove one’s ability to exercise a Constitutionally guaranteed right. There are plenty of places in this country with a history of problems in that regard.

    It’s a philosophical point, but which is worse: Denying a single citizen their lawful vote or allowing a non-citizen to cast a vote illegally? In the current setting, which is more likely to happen (especially in light of studies that suggest there are communities in Texas where as many as 15% of citizens lack photo ID and do not live close to a DMV)?

    Monday, July 9, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink
  11. Arthanyel wrote:


    I, too, am disappointed that you infer from my comments other information which I have never said or even believe. And of course sometimes i am just wrong, too 🙂 Point by point:

    1) REALID. I didn’t say I was unfamiliar with the law, or that I was unaware of the resistance – or in fact, say anything about it at all. And it only underscores the point (the only point) I was making, which is that the only body that could issue standards for national ID would be the federal government, and that it is reasonable to request all citizens to have such ID. The fact that action has already been taken and being resisted is irrelevant to the issue in debate – which is I think it is reasonable to request all citizens to be able to prove their identify, and you apparently do not.

    2) Religious attire. You are begging the question. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom to violate the law. If my “religion” allows bringing death to the infidels or human sacrifice, I don’t get to do it just because we have freedom of religion. There are multiple points in our society that require positive identification – for example, it is impossible to get a passport, a drivers license, or a bank account without having your picture taken. Can someone opt out of such things? Yes. Does that mean they get to ignore the law? It does not. You can choose to not have photo ID, and therefore choose not to travel, not to drive, not to own a bank account – or not to vote.

    3) Vagrancy laws. I was a police officer for 2 years in California, and this is one of the points in our training, and was common in many states. That said, however, I admit I am in error as those laws were struck down after I left the force. You are correct. Please note, however, they did exist and were common in the recent past.

    4) Requiring ID to get ID. I saw the link – the fact that Republican idiots are trying to make it harder for people to vote is unfortunate. Nonetheless, my point is still valid – as a citizen, you need to be able to identify yourself. We have many forms of ID, and you don’t need an existing photo ID to get your first photo ID. There are dozens of different documents that can identify you for the purpose of getting a photo ID, and most of them do not have photographs on them.

    Yes, there may be a couple of people (out of 330M) that cannot easily produce that documentation. A statistical anomaly, completely insignificant. And someone that has NO ID of any kind cannot work, bank, travel, collect social security, or any number of other things. So, back to the original point, you can’t operate or be involved in most of our society without some form of identification, if you have ANY valid form of identification you can get a photo ID, and therefore it is NOT UNREASONABLE to put in place something that makes it simpler to acquire.

    5) Rights are only guaranteed to citizens. Originally, they were only guaranteed to white men that were citizens. We have reinterpreted the meaning of “the people” and “personhood” over time to include things like corporations. So your statement that many rights apply to persons, not only to citizens, is correct – although only citizens may vote, or serve on a jury.

    That said, all persons are required to obey the law and if the law requires you to be able to identify yourself then everyone has to do it. If the law states you may only get food stamps, welfare, social security or any other government program if you ae a citizen, it is not unreasonable to require you to IDENTIFY YOURSELF.

    6) Voting. You keep coming back to voting as the cause cĂ©lèbre for why we should not require people to identify themselves, and I keep repeating that I am against implementing ID laws to disenfranchise voters – but that requiring ID in general is reasonable and we have to make the process free and easily executed if we want to implement it generally. Please understand that and stop trying to use voting as the primary issue in the discussion about ID because I am repeatedly saying that’s not the issue.

    7) Which is worse – denying a single citizen the right to vote or allowing a non citizen to vote. They are equally inappropriate, and equally possible, and equally to be prevented if possible. And equally uninteresting for any single case.

    This is something that really annoys me about both liberals and conservatives – using a statistically insignificant example in a 330M person population as the justification for doing (or not doing) something. Reality isn’t perfect, and it’s not clean. In every election there will be thousands of votes cast (or not cast) as a result of all kinds of issues. And in the end all of these wash out.

    Yes, we should try to do the right thing and yes, we should try to insure every citizen gets their vote and every non-citizen is prevented from voting – but on everage more than 30% of the citizens don’t even BOTHER to vote, so the fact a reasonable law might slow a few people down is hardly justification for not doing something that makes sense.

    My bottom line – it is a reasonable expectation that we require citizens to be able to identify themselves, and it is an UNreasonable demand to say that they do NOT need to identify themselves. Therefore we need to implement appropriate methods of identification, photos included if that is what we think is needed, and to ensure that citizens are NOT disenfranchised we need to make that identification free and easy to obtain. If it is NOT free, and it is NOT easy, then we cannot require it as it would therefore be INTENDED to disenfranchise people.

    And if you just believe we don’t need to require citizens to identify themselves, if you believe people who are NOT citizens should be allowed to get government aid intended only for citizens, vote, serve on juries, influence the management of our society, then we must agree to disagree.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  12. Michael wrote:

    First, by “other information which I have never said or even believe,” I assume that you are referring to my “frequently espouses libertarian viewpoints.” (I don’t see anything else in my post that it could be, but I could be mistaken.) Assuming so, I am mistaking you for another regular commenter. It was an honest mistake, and I apologize for my false attribution.

    I would like to reiterate and emphasize a couple of points that you seem to be missing:

    The religious attire issue is really a side discussion, but it is relevant to the issue of identification. Specifically, the issue of religious attire is difficult to deal with when creating photo ID requirements because allowing them defeats the purpose of an ID, while banning them impels an unconstitutional Morton’s fork. That is, in the latter case, it can have the effect of inducing a choice between free exercise of one’s religion and exercising one’s right to vote. Both rights are guaranteed by the Constitution. I do not see how any law could pass judicial review when its effect involves such a choice. You are correct that religious freedom does not give one the ability to break the law. However, any law passed by Congress, unless it is passed as a Constitutional Amendment, MUST respect the 1st Amendment.

    Regarding your treatment of travel, getting a bank account, driving, and voting as all being equal, you are conveniently ignoring the fact that driving and getting a bank account are NOT CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. And trying to include travel doesn’t make sense, because you generally don’t need to present photo ID in order to travel domestically. Yes, you do for air travel and international travel, but I feel like channeling my inner Scalia and pointing out that you don’t have a Constitutional right to air travel. 🙂

    Again, rights are NOT guaranteed only to citizens. The issue is rather murky, but the restriction of rights to citizens only is more the exception than the rule. See this law review article for the analysis of a Georgetown professor of law. Key paragraph: “Given this [mixed] record [regarding rights for noncitizens], it is not surprising that many members of the general public presume that noncitizens do not deserve the same rights as citizens. But the presumption is wrong in many more respects than it is right [emph. added]. While some distinctions between foreign nationals and citizens are normatively justified and consistent with constitutional and international law, most are not. The significance of the citizen/noncitizen distinction is more often presumed than carefully examined. Upon examination, there is far less to the distinction than commonly thought. In particular, foreign nationals are generally entitled to the equal protection of the laws, to political freedoms of speech and association, and to due process requirements of fair procedure where their lives, liberty, or property are at stake.”

    And, yes, I keep coming back to voting because it was the original point of the post. It is about attempts to abridge the rights to exercise citizens’ rights TO VOTE. And voting, unlike getting a bank account, getting a job, getting food stamps, serving on juries, etc., etc., is a right that is fundamental to the functioning of a Republican form of government, which is mandated by the Constitution.

    The reason that I brought up the “statistically insignificant” example of which is worse is because it can be a thought-experiment to demonstrate one’s attitudes regarding the reverence one holds in the right to vote. The legitimacy of government depends on the trust that citizens place in the electoral process. If a citizen is wrongfully denied the right to vote, even if only once because of a computer glitch, it undermines their faith that they will be able to vote in future elections. There is a harm done that goes beyond just that particular election. Statistical insignificance can be very personally significant when you’re the statistic. (Besides…sometimes, it’s not necessarily statistically insignificant.)

    Since you so badly want to set aside the voting issue, I will do so with my bottom line: There is a difference between requiring citizens to identify themselves and requiring them to obtain and carry a credential that can be used to authenticate their identity. There are plenty of reasons why one may reasonably opt out of the latter, and it is wholly unreasonable to deny them fundamental and Constitutionally guaranteed rights for doing so. I do NOT believe that noncitizens should be “allowed to get government aid intended only for citizens, vote, serve on juries, [or] influence the management of our society.” However, unlawful disenfranchisement of any kind must not be tolerated, as it undermines the trust structure that is required for free and fair elections, and any attempt to reduce the unlawful actions of noncitizens must not result in the improper denial of a single citizen’s lawful right to vote.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink
  13. Anonymous wrote:


    Oops, that’s what I said but not what I intended…
    I’ll edit more carefully next time.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    Second attempt…

    If they require a driver’s license to get a birth certificate and vice versa, presumably it will be difficult for people to get either. College students may have difficulty getting started. And it will become difficult to get a job.

    How would natives to the state who live elsewhere provide a driver’s license?

    Could this be a violation of the Freedom of Information act, if someone requested information with the goal of getting a copy of their birth certificate?

    Birth certificates are a valuable tool for genealogists as well. If a person is dead, can you not get the birth certificate at all?

    Perhaps someone else can provide a driver’s license and get your birth certificate for you?

    Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  15. Arthanyel wrote:


    I don’t know that any of my views specifically map to libertarian, although I will concede some undoubtedly]y do, but since you don’t see where you are claiming a response to something I never said or believed; let me see if I can help you by pointing a couple of them out:

    1) You stated I had had “ignored” your posting about REALID and expressed shock I didn’t know what it was. Neither of which was accurate – I neither ignored it, nor did I not know about it. It was simply irrelevant to the point, which was that any national identification system must be defined by the federal government, which REALID only confirms. Whether people like it or not, or resist it or not, is not relevant to the point.

    2) Religious clothing etc. You said I completely missed your point – instead I just responded to it. If I was to accept your theory about the 1st Amendment restrictions, then all laws in all states that require photo ID for all purposes are unconstitutional. In fact, further, that ALL laws of ALL kinds are unconstitutional because some religion has a belief that is being violated. Your theory is that if I am a Satanist I should be allowed to perform human sacrifices because it would be unconstitutional to stop me.

    That’s just nuts.

    Religious freedom is not freedom to break the law, and the First Amendment is not the only thing to consider in the law. This is why it is illegal to shout “FIRE!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, despite the First Amendment right to free speech.

    And therefore it would be possible to have a law that required photo ID without violating the Constitution.

    3) Your assertion that my acceptance that reality is not clean (i.e. there will always be statistical anomalies) is somehow not “having reverence” for the right to vote. Nonsense.

    Your argument is that if the world isn’t perfect we can’t trust it, and even a single voter left out is as bad as not allowing anyone to vote at all. Equally nonsense.

    Arguments predicated on perfect solutions are inherently fallacious because perfect solutions don’t manifest in reality. Reality is messy. It will NEVER BE PERFECT. There will ALWAYS BE voters that are cut out of the process. Get used to it.

    All we can do – and what WE MUST DO – is keep those anomalies to a minimum. Any law that is INTENDED to INCREASE the disenfranchisement is bad. But that doesn’t mean the recognizing that imperfection exists is an attempt to increase the problem.

    Moving on to the rest of your comments

    Yes, there are ways you can travel domestically without ID. You can’t fly. You can’t drive. You can’t buy tickets for all forms of travel. But you can pay cash for a bus ticket or walk. And of course you have to pay cash, because you probably don’t have any other form of payment since you can’t bank without photo ID either, and no bank accounts makes it hard to get credit cards.

    Rights not just for citizens. You seem to like using this red herring in the debate, but that’s what it is – a red herring. All your points about foreign nationals vs. citizens are irrelevant to the issue, which is that requiring citizens to be able to identify themselves is reasonable and necessary. And that there are things which are only permitted to citizens, like Social Security, Medicare, and yes, voting. Therefore, if you expect to utilize the benefits of citizenship you have to be able to prove you are a citizen, because if you are not you are not allowed to participate. Ipso facto.

    You simply don’t seem to get the point that I am making, which is that I AGREE WITH YOU that if a law is passed requiring photo ID to vote, when getting that ID is NOT FREE or is DIFFICULT, then that law is disenfranchising citizens of their rights. ALL I am saying is that requiring citizens to identify themselves is completely reasonable. My only issue with it is that if you make people pay for that ID then you disenfranchise poor people, and THAT is not OK, any more than the Jim Crow laws were OK. But if it is free and easily available, then I do not see a valid objection to it.

    Therefore, since it is perfectly valid for the federal government to demand all citizens possess identification, your only real objections are that putting a photo on that identification bothers you, and that expecting you to produce that ID when required is somehow unreasonable. We will agree to disagree – since the majority of general activity in the society requires a photo ID already, I can’t see how tacking a photo on to the required citizen ID is unreasonable, and since we agree that having ID at all is reasonable, I can’t see how requiring people to produce it when necessary is unreasonable.

    Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  16. Michael wrote:

    “since it is perfectly valid for the federal government to demand all citizens possess identification” and “required citizen ID.” Didn’t you just admit that these laws were struck down? NO SUCH LAWS EXIST. And now you’re bringing them back as premises for your argument. Sigh…

    Friday, July 13, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

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