Florida—Again

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/07/florida-again/259622/