Photo ID law fails to produce hysterically predicted disenfranchisement

Photo ID law fails to produce hysterically predicted disenfranchisement

March 8th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Remember the near-hysterical claims that Tennessee lawmakers were trying to disenfranchise minorities and the elderly when they enacted a law requiring voters to present photo identification at polling places?

Well, so far it seems the panic didn't pan out. State officials said that not even 50 of the 201,000 people who voted early in Tennessee's primary lacked appropriate ID. And in our area, "Neither the local NAACP nor local political parties reported any major run-ins over the new photo ID requirement" Tuesday, the Times Free Press reported. The story appeared to be the same around the state. And the few people who didn't have proper ID had the option to cast a provisional ballot and present ID later to have the ballot counted.

"Voter suppression"? "Disenfranchisement"? Hardly.

In fact, this mirrors results in states such as Georgia that passed ID laws without creating the predicted waves of disenfranchised voters.

What we don't know is how many people who might have voted fraudulently in Tennessee stayed away from the polls Tuesday because they knew the ID law would trip them up.

That's an issue with which opponents of the law have been unwilling to grapple. The law targets a type of fraud that can be extremely hard to head off. It keeps someone from presenting himself to poll workers as someone other than who he is and voting under the name of that person -- who may have moved to another state without notifying election officials or who may even have died.

Dismissing such fraud as virtually nonexistent just because there are few "documented" cases of it is illogical. Without photo ID, a poll worker would have to know the person whose identity is being misused by someone else in order to stop it. It does not lend itself to detection, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So efforts to prevent it are reasonable.