This column is a response to “The Poll Truth,” by writer-at-large Michael Ennis.
Let us talk some common sense. This is the United States of America and the year is 2012. There is nothing we do of even moderate importance that does not require a valid, semi-secure, government-issued photo ID. Americans have come to expect to carry and show a photo ID when they drive, board a plane, conduct a banking transaction, enter a government building, visit a doctor, apply for government benefits, and the list goes on and on. The requirement of showing a valid photo ID to prove who you are is a reasonable and necessary security measure. That is why opinion polls show that a large majority of Texans, even of such subgroups as Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Hispanics, and blacks believe citizens should have to show a photo ID to exercise the right to vote. They recognize that the sacred, fundamental right of voting should be protected at a minimum by the simple common sense requirement of proving who you are and that you are eligible to vote.
Mr. Ennis bemoans that too few people vote, especially minorities. I would observe that sometimes not voting is in fact a form of democratic participation. It could mean that you are satisfied with the expected outcome and will live with the result, or it could mean that you don’t like the choices that you have been given and refuse to make the effort to choose between them. It could simply be a question of priorities. Regardless, voting is a right, and any right, even a constitutional one, requires some responsibility, effort, and action on the part of the person exercising that right. If, for example, I want to stage a protest in front of the Department of Justice building to express my disapproval of Attorney General Eric Holder’s stance on voter ID, I must first obtain a permit.
Of our low rate of voter participation, Mr. Ennis asks, “Is this any way to run a democracy?” I will answer his question with a question of my own. Texas Republicans, who were elected by large majorities to both houses of the Legislature and to every statewide office in 2010, have repeatedly run on the issue of voter ID, only to be thwarted by the Democrats for three legislative sessions. Is it not democracy for these Republicans to deliver on what they promised the voters and what a majority of Texans want? That, to me, is the essence of democracy.
The same could be said about the issue of redistricting. Political lines have always been drawn by the party in power after a census. Democrats, who held the majority for several decades in Texas, drew lines that favored their party. Is it surprising that Republicans would want to do the same? Is not turnabout fair play? But the Democrats and their political front groups have become masters of using the outdated and unnecessary 1965 Voting Rights Act, a highly political Obama Department of Justice, and liberal courts as a weapon, rather than as a shield as intended, to spoil those plans.
But back to voter ID. I don’t know any real, live, legal Texas citizen who does not have one of the forms of identification required by the Texas voter ID law, and I doubt if Mr. Ennis, the reader, or the federal judges who presided over the recent Washington trial about the law do either. As I stated earlier, proving one’s identity with a photo ID is a routine feature of modern American life. That is why no one came forward during the legislative committee hearings on the topic to say that they did not have an ID or could not get one, and that is why the Democrats, the DOJ, and their allies could not produce such a person to testify credibly at the D.C. trial. The federal court based its findings on the testimony of experts and simply chose to believe the experts of the DOJ and not of the State of Texas. Yet I would submit that the very people who are supposedly less likely to have such IDs or cannot get one—minorities, the poor, and the elderly—are in fact the very people most likely to have such an ID because they depend heavily on government services, which require proving you are who you say you are.
The United States Supreme Court has already ruled that Indiana’s photo voter ID law, which is similar to Texas’s, is constitutional. The court ruled that, even without any proof that in-person voter fraud in Indiana existed, requiring a photo ID is a reasonable security measure that Indiana could take to protect the integrity of its elections. More importantly, the court said that such a requirement inspires public confidence in the voting system. Perhaps that could explain why voter participation increased in Indiana after the law was enacted. It makes sense that a person would be more likely to vote if he believed that his vote would not be canceled out by a fraudulent ballot.
Contrary to Mr. Ennis’s assertion, I believe Texas attorney general Greg Abbott made a very credible showing at the D.C. trial that voter impersonation fraud exists in Texas and that a voter ID law is needed to protect our elections. What he was not able to do was prove a negative as required by the Voting Rights Act. That is, according to the court, he did not prove—because it would be impossible to prove—that requiring a photo ID would not hurt the ability of minority groups to vote.
Yet, in this age of ACORN falsely registering voters, weekly stories of voter fraud allegations and convictions, and a public perception that illegal aliens and dead people are voting in our elections, a majority of Texas citizens, including minorities, believe that we need to provide a modicum of security to our election system. In its ruling, the federal court told Texans that, because of the Voting Rights Act, we can’t have the same law that Indiana citizens have. When Attorney General Abbott appeals that decision, we shall see if the U.S. Supreme Court believes that, because of a nearly half-century-old piece of legislation whose time has come and gone, Texas citizens are not equally entitled to the safeguards and confidence in their electoral system that the citizens of Indiana and other states now enjoy.