– Patrick O’Hannigan, Civitas Contributor
Our prominent state newspapers are sounding alarms against Voter ID legislation and anyone trying to prevent voter fraud. In a June 7 editorial, editors at the Charlotte Observer described a proposed photo ID requirement for voters as “craven, political, misleading, and ineffective.” They also accused NC House Speaker Tim Moore of offering “the same lame justifications [for voter ID laws] that have been exposed as flimsy before.”
That four damning labels for one law were in play before “lame justifications” showed up suggests that someone checked a thesaurus before lobbing a draft essay into review. Every newsroom has a Sultan of Synonym. He or she could have consulted with colleagues to call arguments for photo IDs “poor,” “misguided,” or “discredited.” Instead, editors dismissed the photo ID idea as “lame,” because that adjective signifies contempt. Anything “lame” does not deserve a place on the 2018 ballot.
Republicans usually endorse voter ID laws. The study confirming that also found that Democrat support for Voter ID legislation depends less on principle than on political calculation, and so flickers like firefly light.
One major party fears voter fraud, and the other fears voter suppression. Observing this dynamic, an article in City Journal noted that among Democrats, “Voter suppression is said to occur at virtually every level of the political system, from the failure of some states to establish early voting to the makeup of the Electoral College.” This point of view stacks the deck against Voter ID laws because Democrats assume that voter fraud is nonexistent and voter suppression is self-evident. Thinking those things lifts the burden of proof on both ends, and places it squarely on the shoulders of non-Democrats.
What you make of the fact that seventy percent of same-day registrants in New Hampshire used an out-of-state photo ID to vote in the presidential election of 2016 probably depends on your party affiliation, as does your reaction to an effort to make 16 the voting age in Michigan. When President Trump disbanded the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity (aka the “Voter Fraud Commission”), it wasn’t for lack of work, but because he’d decided that “endless legal battles” at taxpayer expense weren’t worth the cost of muscling in on the way states run elections within their borders.
The Heritage Foundation tracks voter fraud cases state by state on its website. North Carolina entries there are slim but instructive. Local progressives point to an audit done by the State Board of Elections after the 2016 election, which found that there were only 508 ineligible votes cast out of a total of almost 4.8 million. Go back a bit further, and you might note a WTVD story that “more than 35,000 people may have double voted by casting ballots in North Carolina and another state” in 2012.
Newspapers that are leading the charge against photo ID challenge Republican lawmakers with Twitter-level arguments. In the editorial mentioned above, they suggested that if Representative John Sauls had any integrity, he would worry more about “Russian hacking” than about “someone showing up at the polls illegitimately.” That allusion to national controversy looks even more ham-fisted now that we know that Democrat consternation over Russian hacking is oh-so-carefully calibrated.
In response to the objection that people already show photo IDs even for trivial matters, the editors wrote that “voting, unlike driving or buying strong narcotic cough medicine, is a constitutional right,” whereas “the others are privileges.” They also went on to assert that “Americans should not have to jump through artificial hoops to exercise their constitutional rights.”
It’s as though they’ve never heard of the background checks and waiting periods by which North Carolina regulates the free exercise of the right to keep and bear arms. The hoops that we expect gun owners to jump through involve more than showing proof of identity, yet editors who are silent about Second Amendment constraints want the rest of us to think that asking to see a photo ID is the same as collecting a poll tax or imposing a literacy test on prospective voters. Sheesh!
Progressive fondness for treating reason like an accessory rather than something integral to argument makes it a prop, like Tiny Tim’s crutch in A Christmas Carol. This habit also makes Observer editorials fun for those of us who can’t pick up a shovel without remembering folk wisdom about the pony that might be under a pile of manure.
Happily, the screed against voter identification made good on that promise. Voters should be especially wary of the proposed amendment to the state constitution requiring a photo ID to vote editors said, “because they would be asked to approve it before they know any details of how photo ID would work. Would student IDs count? Would utility bills?”
You must be a special kind of editor to get your picture on a utility bill.
Patrick O’Hannigan is a Civitas contributor, a father of two, and a technical writer and editor. He resides in Morrisville, North Carolina.