As we all know by now, presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks that just under half of the country does not take full responsibility for their own lives, blah blah blah. No need to rehash all of that here. The meme has, rather interestingly, coincided with another Republican cause célèbre, voter ID laws. (Note to right-wingers: I will understand if you are uncomfortable using the French phrase “cause célèbre.” If you prefer, you may use the alternate phrase, “freedom fame.”)
Specifically, a Pennsylvania Republican is not concerned about possible disenfranchisement from the law he is sponsoring, apparently because people without photo ID just aren’t taking enough responsibility for their lives:
As Pennsylvania’s strict voter ID law returns to the lower court for reconsideration, its original sponsor, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA), told KDKA Radio Wednesday morning that his law will only disenfranchise “lazy” people, like the ones Mitt Romney was talking about in the leaked video of a private fundraiser.
When pressed on the issue, Rep. Metcalfe had this to say:
“I don’t believe any legitimate voter that actually wants to exercise that right and takes on the according responsiblity that goes with that right to secure their photo ID will be disenfranchised. As Mitt Romney said, 47% of the people that are living off the public dole, living off their neighbors’ hard work, and we have a lot of people out there that are too lazy to get up and get out there and get the ID they need. If individuals are too lazy, the state can’t fix that.” [Emphasis added]
He is both right and wrong, but let me first say this: Republicans, you have a problem with the word “legitimate.” Seriously, you should consider not using that word for a long while.
Now then, Rep. Metcalfe is right that the state cannot compel a “lazy” person to take an interest in politics or society. I would think that would be obvious. Here’s the rub, though: the state cannot compel a person to jump through arbitrary hoops to participate in society. Rep. Metcalfe is placing the blame on people who have lived their lives, by all accounts perfectly well, without the documents that he now says they need in order to vote. I call bullshit.
The people affected by Rep. Metcalfe’s proposed law would need to obtain documentation, typically at a cost, in order to participate in their own democracy. Study after study has shown that voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem. The only reason certain people would need to obtain a driver’s license or other photo ID, therefore, would be to vote. It would be an expense solely associated with the act of voting, and there is a name for that: a poll tax.
Meet the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1964:
SECTION 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
SECTION 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Efforts to make people incur expense as a condition of voting has quite the dirty history in this country. Let’s not tiptoe back into our utterly-backwards past whilst trying to blame it on a mythical “lazy” class of people, okay?