Much ado about ID

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I’m fascinated by the generational divide that exists over the topic of voter ID.

It all seems so simple. You should have an ID to vote! Yes, simple, right? You need an ID to get on a plane, to get in many buildings, to, well, in the post-9-11 world, the list is endless.

But for anyone who understands the history of civil rights in this country, it really is not that simple.

When I talk to young people, they don’t understand. They grew up in a maddening world where you need a password for everything. And if you don’t remember your password, you’ll get another one that will soon expire. Somehow they manage this world with great ease, while on the other hand, their parents tear what’s left of their collective hair out.

In this world, everyone has to prove who they are, with ID, with passwords, and in the future, maybe even fingerprints!

So they say to me, “What’s the big deal with showing an ID to vote?”

Well, critics say it is a big deal. The idea is that many people will be disenfranchised at the polls — that they will not be able to vote. And they argue this will affect the poor unnecessarily. Critics also say it’s a plot by Republicans to keep the Democratic vote low.

Supporters say the ID laws are necessary to stop voter fraud.

I’m not sure about all of that, and who’s right, but I do see a way to a compromise, and appears that the courts are heading in that direction.

A judge in Pennsylvania this week has blocked a tough voter ID law requiring photo ID, essentially saying the state has not done its job in providing voters access to the documents.

This is just one state where voter ID requirements have failed. They’ve been put aside in Texas and Wisconsin. And the Justice Department has blocked a law in South Carolina.

Does it make sense in the long-term for people to produce ID at the polls? Probably. But some observers say, what’s the rush? Why not first implement the laws, but then give people plenty of lag time to get the ID, plenty meaning perhaps a year or two. And they say seniors should be given maximum leniency, since the odds that they are involved in any kind of fraud is probably low.

This is a compromise, something not popular in today’s partisan political world. But it’s a start.