Voter ID

Hat-tip to Avedon: Congress is about to pass a bill that says you have to show proof of citizenship to vote.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House will vote on HR 4844, the Ehlers/Hyde bill, which requires all voters to show a photo ID that must also include proof of citizenship.

Ok, pull out your driver’s license. Does it say, “This ID certifies that the holder is a U.S. citizen”? Unlikely. Based on preliminary research, we think that there are only three states–Alabama, Arizona, and Wyoming–that offer citizenship-verified drivers’ licenses.

If you’re not from one of those states, you’ll need a passport in order to vote. That’ll cost you $97 and six weeks of waiting, unless you want to pay more to expedite the process.

Of course, if the 75 percent of eligible voters who don’t currently have a passport decide that they do indeed want to vote, the waiting time could increase significantly. Six weeks could become six months.

Does this make sense? Of course not. That’s why we’re urging all Common Cause members and friends to call their congressional representatives and ask them to vote against HR 4844. To find your House representative, go to http://www.commoncause.org/FindElectedOfficials.

I hate to say it, but one of the things Anglo-American countries consistently get wrong is the lack of ID cards. I know it’s a problem that in France and Germany, it’s a crime not to carry ID on you at all times; that’s not what I’m talking about. How difficult can it be for the government to mandate that every American have the ability to receive a government ID such as a passport?

First, the government must defray the cost. Asking people to pay to be able to vote is undemocratic, and asking people to pay to be allowed to travel to another country contravenes basic freedom of movement.

And second, while it’s time Americans stop voluntarily relinquishing their right to travel to other countries (coming to think of it, it’s time more of them start traveling to other countries), if the bureaucracy really can’t give the entire citizenry passports by Election Day, it’s a travesty not to wait until 2008.

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