It all seems so reasonable. Who could possibly object to a law that simply requires a person to produce proof of identity before voting? We’ve all heard the stories of dead people voting in Cook County and live people paid to vote three or four times in different places. The vast majority of Americans support photo-identification laws, which are now in place in 17 states. True, the numbers are underwhelming: one study found 26 incidents of voter fraud in 197 million ballots cast; another found 31 in a billion-vote sample. True, far from being part of our national electoral tradition, voter-ID laws have arisen in the last decade, promoted primarily by Republican legislatures in states where demographics (i.e., minorities and the poor) favor the other party. And, yes, some legislators have said strange things – such as Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s boast in early 2012: “Voter ID . . . is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (It didn’t.)
And now we have Alabama, a state with a long history of voter suppression, where a law requiring voters to produce government-issued photo IDs went into effect last year – on the same day the Supreme Court rolled back the Voting Rights Act. The most common form of photo-ID is a driver’s license. Unfortunately, the state will be closing most of its license bureaus, including those in eight of the ten counties that voted most heavily for Obama and in “every single county in which blacks make up 75 percent of registered voters.”
Apparently, it’s a budget issue.