Voter ID and Proof of Citizenship

Missouri is trying to join Arizona in requiring people prove that they are U.S. citizens before allowing them to vote.

The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote. The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.

Sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.

Voting experts say the Missouri amendment represents the next logical step for those who have supported stronger voter ID requirements and the next battleground in how elections are conducted. Similar measures requiring proof of citizenship are being considered in at least 19 state legislatures. Bills in Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina have strong support. But only in Missouri does the requirement have a chance of taking effect before the presidential election.

Theoretically, this seems reasonable enough. What’s the point of requiring advance voter registration if not to confirm that people are in fact eligible to cast a ballot?

Practically, however, this could be problematic. While a drivers’ license or other government issued photo ID ought to serve as proof of citizenship, it doesn’t. Not everyone has a passport, either. So would-be voters would have to produce a birth certificate or some comparable document, which will certainly discourage some people from voting.

This trade-off would be defensible if there were strong reason to believe that significant numbers of non-citizens were showing up to vote and skewing the election results. There isn’t. Certainly, illegal aliens have strong incentives to avoid official scrutiny. So, who are these people we’re trying to keep from voting?

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2008, US Politics, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Hal says:

    So, who are these people we’re trying to keep from voting?

    Um, Democrats? Isn’t it obvious?

    Geebus.

  2. Maybe they are trying to keep the dead, or four legged people from voting.

    Bill

    Felix the cat for President.

  3. MstrB says:

    Its happened to my wife before, where she went to the polling station only to find out she had allegedly already been there, allegedly voted and allegedly signed her name.

  4. Hal says:

    Its happened to my wife before

    And I’m sure you went right to the police and reported it, too?

  5. Missouri, especially St. Louis, has some real problems with vote fraud. FWIW, it’s not Democrats that this is meant to stop voting, it’s non-existent or deceased Democrats. I think even Hal can agree that non-existent or deceased Democrats shouldn’t be voting. Or maybe not.

  6. Hal says:

    I think even Hal can agree that non-existent or deceased Democrats shouldn’t be voting. Or maybe not.

    As they say, put up or shut up. Links? References? Love to see them, Mr. Austin.

  7. sam says:

    When I read the story, I thought, Geez, my brother and I might have real trouble proving our citizenship if birth certificates are required (and he a 30-year veteran, USMC. Me, 4-year veteran, USMC). Our parents were divorced when I was 6 and he was 5. My mother remarried a few years later, and we took our step-father’s name, which, of course, is not the name on our birth certificates. We were never adopted by our step-father. All it would take would be one bureaucractic asshole and we could be denied the right to vote. Not good.

  8. Hal says:

    All it would take would be one bureaucractic asshole and we could be denied the right to vote. Not good.

    But think of the upside! All those imagined dead democratic voters they can’t provide any evidence for and mythical illegal immigrants that might vote if they weren’t terrified of being deported would be denied voting. So in the end, it’s worth the sacrifice of your right as a citizen.

  9. joe says:

    A major challenge with laws like these is that it is the Federal government’s responsibility to police citizenship issues, not the states. Constitutionally, it may not be in the state’s jurisdiction to enforce laws that demand individuals prove their citizenship. Regardless of the obvious racist overtones in these laws, states such as Arizona, California and Texas should have far different laws than say, Wisconsin which is totally bordered by other American states. This seems like a nightmare for attorneys on both sides, trying to represent people who can’t prove their citizenship even though they are citizens. The poor, the mentally disabled and the elderly will have a hard time finding certain documents, and these laws seem to be quite problematic for those individuals.

  10. Hal says:

    The poor, the mentally disabled and the elderly will have a hard time finding certain documents, and these laws seem to be quite problematic for those individuals.

    That would be a feature, not a bug to the people who are pushing this.

  11. John425 says:

    Out here in Seattle-land, hundreds of fraudulent voter registrations were submitted by ACORN, several elderly widowers admitted to sending in their deceased spouses ballot and the governorship went to the ruling Democrat party by just 139 votes. It still smells bad.

  12. James Joyner says:

    The poor, the mentally disabled and the elderly will have a hard time finding certain documents, and these laws seem to be quite problematic for those individuals.

    That would be a feature, not a bug to the people who are pushing this.

    I’ve gotta admit, I’m dubious of the value of having the mentally disabled vote. But, obviously, the poor and elderly ought not be discouraged.

  13. Hal says:

    I’m dubious of the value of having the mentally disabled vote.

    It’s okay, we democrats still think Republicans should vote.

  14. Hal says:

    Out here in Seattle-land, hundreds of fraudulent voter registrations were submitted by ACORN

    To be very clear, voter registrations are not votes. The issue with fraudulent registrations is pretty well restricted to the incentive for fraud due to paying for them. Easily taken care of without actually harming anyone’s right of citizenship.

    The simple fact is – and the Supreme court spelled this out – that evidence for voter fraud is almost impossible to find. Yes, one can always come up with individual instances of fraud, but the issue always has to be balanced against the harm coming up with zero fraud would do – and is documented to do so.

    It really is odd for the party of cost/benefit to completely base their drive for dealing with voter fraud purely on hypotheticals that no one actually believes will come to pass.

  15. And if I provide the links Hal, will you shut up?

  16. G.A.Phillips says:

    The simple fact is – and the Supreme court spelled this out – that evidence for voter fraud is almost impossible to find. Yes, one can always come up with individual instances of fraud, but the issue always has to be balanced against the harm coming up with zero fraud would do – and is documented to do so.

    are you totally crazy, what the Great Green Hell is so hard about getting an I.D., I had to get one when I was 16 just to walk around town, imagine.
    prove you are a citizen our don’t vote! How more simple could it get and why is it not the law of the land unless some one is trying to rig something for cheating.

  17. Hal says:

    And if I provide the links Hal, will you shut up?

    Ah, a resident of Spleenville. No, I won’t shut up. But please do provide them so everyone can see what a piss head I truly am.

  18. Hal says:

    How more simple could it get and why is it not the law of the land unless some one is trying to rig something for cheating.

    Yea, I’m guessing you’d have been for the poll tax, too.

  19. DavidTC says:

    Out here in Seattle-land, hundreds of fraudulent voter registrations were submitted by ACORN,

    …which is what happens whenever you pay someone per-person to register people. Some of the people found it easier to make up names than run around registering people.

    Not only was no one actually ever intending to vote those names, the system caught the bogus registrations.

    several elderly widowers admitted to sending in their deceased spouses ballot

    …and citizenship checks would help that how? Presumably, their deceased spouses were, in fact, American citizens.

    Here’s a fun question:

    Can a single person cite even a hypothetical example of what citizen checks, as opposed to ID checks, would catch? The sole group of people it would appear to catch is people with legitimate ID, who are not US citizens, who vote.

    Can anyone cite that ever happening? People in this country illegally are not going to vote, that’s insane behavior. I know it’s some crazy Republican theory that they vote, but in reality people here illegally avoid the government like the plague, they aren’t going to stand in line for two hours filing into a government area. (Or, more to the point, they wouldn’t attempt to register in the first place.)

    And non-citizens here legally know damn well that attempting to vote is a very good way to have your visa revoked. There’s probably a whole section on that in their visa papers they have to sign and agree to.

    Of course, there’s another entirely separate group of people that such checks are intended to filter out…people who would have trouble laying their hands on proof of their citizenship. The poor and the old, namely.

  20. rpk says:

    I recall a Democratic elected state official in California calling for illegals to register to vote within the last two years. Left coast Democrats have tried to make it legal for illegals to vote in city elections. That’s the public record. I think that reasonable people might see illegals voting as a real potential problem. After all illegals are DEMANDING everything else.

  21. Hal says:

    That’s the public record.

    Geebus, have you guys heard of the internet? The web? Providing links, rather than just hearsay when you’re making bold claims is considered to be standard.

    That is, if you’re actually trying to argue, rather than just demagogue.

    Hey Charles Austin, have those links you promised? Or was that last comment just a huff and a puff to try to blow the house down?