Evidently the state Attorney General is angry at President Obama because the feds filed a brief in support of the 9th Circuit Court’s recent decision to strike down Proposition 200.  Prop. 200 was a ballot initiative to add the requirement that residents provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

On the surface this seems okay, doesn’t it?  I mean, you should be a citizen to vote, right?  I wish life was only this simple, but unfortunately it isn’t.  Here’s some reasons why it ain’t so simple.

Look at the motivation of those who propose such laws.1  AG Horne says (and many conservatives repeat) that is a really big problem and it is undermining democracy.  This is not true according to a New York Time article.  It said:

Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

That same article says as a result of a 5 years study there were 120 people charged with 86 of them being convicted.  Of those the actual prosecutors said that many were honest mistakes and just plain ignorance of the process.  So we have a whopping 120 cases out of how many hundreds of millions of votes cast in all the federal elections over those 5 years.  Does this sound like a major problem of corruption that needs to be stopped as fast as humanly possible with yet another law on the books?  I thought conservatives were against big government and so many laws on the books?  Conservative politicians know these facts but they’d rather get more mileage out of the bumper sticker idea, as AG Horne is doing here.

What else could be motivating them?  Well, the obvious answer, and something they will admit to, is that they want to keep the ineligible from voting.  I’m a liberal and I admit to want this as well.  I just believe that there is a better way to do it.  Why is the proof of citizenship not a good way to do that?

Look at how you prove citizenship….or how about how you can’t prove citizenship.   None of the following items or actions prove citizenship in the U.S.:

  • Driver’s License
  • Paying Taxes
  • Census Record
  • Delayed Birth Certificate (of more than one year)
  • Army Discharge Papers2
  • Hospital Birth Certificate3

What can prove citizenship then?

  • Social Security Card IF you have one AND you know where the heck it is at.  You may have a social security number but that doesn’t mean you have a card.  Also, did you change your name since you last got the card?  Then you’d better get a new one but it takes a few weeks.  Oops, didn’t think about that in time to vote?  Oh well too bad for you.  Who would this effect?  Anyone who recently got married.  Anyone not anal enough to keep an up to date copy of their social security card handy.4
  • Passport IF you have one.  Most U.S. citizens don’t have one unless they travel internationally.  About one half of one percent of Americans travel internationally annually.  Soooo, not a lot of voters have this option.  How long does it take to get a passport?  At peak travel periods it can take 6 to 8 weeks to get a passport.  How much does it cost?  Between $65 and $100, depending.  So if you don’t have the time to go for the picture and fill out the application in person and you don’t have the money, then I guess you can’t vote.  Who would this effect?  Potentially 99.95% of the U.S. population that might be suffering economically and/or anyone working a wage job so they can’t afford to take the time off or won’t be given the time off.  Wow, with the current Recession that’s probably the majority of American workers come to think of it!
  • Official Birth Certificate IF you have an OFFICIAL copy.  What is official? Well it varies from state to state to be honest.  Most states keep the original on file and NEVER EVER give it out to anyone.  So what we get is a certified copy of the original for our records. What makes it certified?  Usually some kind of raised stamp from the State’s or City’s Department of Health. 5  Who will this affect?  Pretty much everyone trying to vote.  How long does it take to get a certified copy of your birth certificate?  In some cases, forever.  If you were born at home by a midwife, you have some real hurdles to jump to prove your citizenship.  One study indicates that there has been a 20% rise in home births between 2004 and 2008 but it remains small UNLESS you are elderly, then your odds of having been born at home are much, much higher.   Born overseas to American parents but not on a Military base?  Your parents must have registered the birth with the local Consulate.  And if they did that, they’d have to meet several criteria such as they must be married and one parent must have lived in the U.S. for 5 years prior to your birth (and other stuff) .6
Are you starting to get the picture of how it just isn’t as easy as conservatives make it out to be?  That’s why the majority of states try to use some other kind of method such as driver’s licenses or photo ID.  Unfortunately, they suffer from a lot of the same problems mentioned above as well.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 7% or 13 million individuals did not have ready access to citizenship documents AND many, many more do not have proof of it in their current name.  They also surveyed studies to see what kinds of voters these requirements effect.  They found that the following types of people are more likely to be negatively affected by citizenship proof requirements:
  • Low income voters – 12% of voters are in this bracket, which is 42 million people
  • Women – 32 million women may not have proof of citizenship in their current name
Likewise, they found that the following types of voters were more likely to negatively affected by photo identification requirements:
  • Elderly – 18% of those over 65 don’t have photo ID primarily because they no longer drive
  • Minorities – 25% of African American’s don’t have photo ID
  • Low Income – again 15% for this
  • Women – info not current on photo ID, 18%
  That’s the kind of numbers that swing elections, isn’t it?7  And what party are the majority of these types of voters most likely to vote for?  The Democratic Party.  So I ask again, what is the motivation of conservatives like AG Horne?  He wants to stop voters that will be potentially Democratic voters, in this case illegal immigrants.  Does he say this outright?  Yes in regards to Illegal Immigrants but not in regards to Democratic voters.  But if you were an illegal immigrant and you had the chance to vote in the Presidential 2012 election, who would you vote for?  The Democratic candidate who is offering you a potential path to citizenship or the Republican candidate who wants to deport you with little or no due process? Yeah, I thought you’d see it that way.

Notes:

1 Why should we care about motivation?  Whenever you study ethics or try to be ethical, motivation and intention matter.

2 Yes you can fight and die in our Armed Forces but that doesn’t make you a citizen unless they agreed to grant it when you signed up.

3 Like the one released by Donald Trump this year

4 I’ve always been good about record keeping, so a Social Security Card was a “no-brainer” for me.  Not so with most other people.

5 Hence the controversy over Pres. O’s birth certificate…too many people don’t understand the problem with birth certificates.  

6 No bias there, nope, no siree!

7 I couldn’t find stats on Urban Dwellers…..but I’m sure there are tons of them.  If you don’t drive, why get a Drivers License?!

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/washington/12fraud.html

http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2011/06/08/20110608arizona-attorney-general-tom-horne-obama-lawsuit.html

http://www.newser.com/story/115131/donald-trump-birth-certificate-not-the-real-deal.html

http://samoa.usembassy.gov/proof_of_citizenship.html

http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1666/~/check-status-of-a-social-security-card-application

http://www.theexpeditioner.com/2010/02/17/how-many-americans-have-a-passport-2/

http://www.brennancenter.org/page/-/d/download_file_39242.pdf

http://www.ideastream.org/news/npr/136500621

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_nationality_law#Through_birth_abroad_to_United_States_citizens

 

 

 

 

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Comments
  1. alopecia says:

    Youth and College Students are also likely to be affected by such laws. Texas had a voter-ID law proposed not long ago that explicitly disallowed student IDs for voter registration, *even student IDs issued by Texas state universities and colleges.* They’re not even trying to hide what they’re doing—it’d be nice if they’d make a token effort, but even that seems to be too much trouble.

    I have a Social Security card and I *think* I know where it is, but I can’t be arsed to look (since I could recite my SSN in my sleep, I have little need for the actual piece of paper—which piece of paper the federal government is at pains to warn us not to carry around with us, lest we be made even more vulnerable to identity theft). I also *think* I know where a copy of my birth certificate is, but again I can’t be arsed to look. I’d be astounded if I were unique or even in the minority in this. I’m not entirely sure I could prove I exist, let alone prove I’m qualified to vote under the provisions of this law.

    Of course, I’ve been registered to vote in the (relatively) sane state of California since I was 19, mumble-mumble years ago, so the question’s moot.

    Conservatives love to pretend that everyone has equal access to government services (or, in this case, official government documents), but they are only pretending and not very convincingly.

  2. drangedinaz says:

    Alo, you are sooooo right. It’s funny how Conservatives are so worried about protecting our elections when it comes to preventing potential Democratic voters, isn’t it?!

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