Florida—Again

More

Dave Weigel reports from Florida on the fiasco in the making:

Here's the paradox of the new voter ID crackdown, of the 38 states that have debated or passed legislation that puts more demands on voters. The new laws--and in Florida, new executive campaigns--ask voters to show driver's licenses at the polls, or prove their eligibility with birth certificates, or prove that they've never had a felony, or prove that they are citizens of the United States. 

Doing that involves navigating your state's bureaucracies. Those bureaucracies have been shrunk or frozen by years of belt-tightening. They rely on data from other cost-cutting organs of the state. Imagine giving some endomorphic amateur athlete a low-calorie diet and limited access to a gym. He's training for a mile-long fun run, so there's no pressure. All of a sudden, you panic about the threat of Sprinting Fraud or something, and you inform the runner of his new task: Run a timed 3.5-mile circuit, tomorrow.

Weigel leads with a guy who the state insists is a felon, but isn't. Better one Florida agency is clear the gentleman isn't a felon, but it's having trouble convincing Florida's Department of State. I think I'd have much less of a problem with voter ID laws, if I knew the state's were going to make sure getting the proper ID was no problem. Instead you get this:
State officials are running into problems with the new voter-identification law even before the federal government has approved or rejected it. Voters without a photo ID are facing a circular problem: They need a certified birth certificate to get the voter ID, and they need a photo ID to get the birth certificate. 

Pamela Weaver, spokeswoman of the Mississippi Secretary of State's office, today confirmed the catch-22 problem, which the Jackson Free Press learned about from a complaint posted on Facebook. One of the requirements to get the free voter ID cards is a birth certificate, but in order to receive a certified copy of your birth certificate in Mississippi, you must have a photo ID. Not having the photo ID is why most people need the voter ID in the first place.
If we are to take the complaint about "voter fraud" seriously, and not simply assume it is a right wing tribal call, then it's worth evaluating these laws like any other attempt at crime prevention. In that vein it seems reasonable to ask--What, specific, documented group of criminals are you combating? Who are the vote fraudsters? What elections have hey attempted to steal? How successful were they? How did our current defenses hold up? And, last but not least, in our efforts to improve those defenses how likely is that we will produce outcomes like this:
If anyone has figured out how to navigate the noncitizen voter problem, he has not revealed the trick. James O'Keefe, the conservative investigative journalist, has dispatched his Project Veritas reporters to multiple swing states (and D.C.) to prove that anyone can steal a voter's identity if the state doesn't ask for ID. In North Carolina, O'Keefe used jury pool lists to find noncitizens and show how they could sneak into the polls. But the lists were flawed, and two of the supposed noncitizens in the video turned out to be naturalized, eligible voters.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In