Column: Want to vote? Show ID

Mar. 09, 2013 @ 09:15 AM

I grew up in the Land of Lincoln. A state made famous for how many of its ex-governors serve prison time after they leave the governor’s mansion in Springfield. In decades past it most probably was also known for setting records for how many deceased people miraculously voted in elections after their deaths. These people somehow managed to make it to the polls to cast their votes and then, I guess, returned to the pearly gates of heaven.

This was known to happen quite frequently in Chicago under the first Mayor Richard Daley. It became so widespread that I remember one of the Chicago papers publishing a list of the deceased who voted in an election after their deaths. I wonder what, if a photo ID law had been in place, that would have looked like.

So as someone who grew up in a state that was well-known for shady politics and irregular voting records, I never had a problem with a requirement for voters to show photo IDs. Although, knowing Illinois politics, I don’t think a photo ID would stop fraudulent voting in Illinois.

I also spent 10 years in Minnesota, which has some of the most liberal voting rules. When I lived there you could register on the day of the election. To register was as easy as bringing your electric bill and one other identification (no photo ID needed there). The year Jesse Ventura won the election for Minnesota governor, an all-time record was set for day-of-election registration, and it was estimated that Ventura took the majority of those voters. I guess MMA fighters and bodybuilders were not regular voters in Minnesota, but they could not resist the charm of soon-to-be-Gov. Ventura and turned out in droves to ensure his election.

I did not grow up in the South. I also was not a voter who was subject to a poll tax to exercise my constitutional rights. I have a hard time understanding why people would take to the streets to protest the possibility that a photo ID would be required, especially if access to an ID was provided at no cost. I do believe a fee to obtain an ID would be a deterrent for those with financial difficulties, so if the state wants to enforce such a rule it should have to provide a means for everyone to obtain the ID.

I believe voting is a privilege and a right. A right that every qualified American should exercise with as much ease as possible.