Thursday, December 8, 2011

NAACP Takes Voter I.D. Issue Global

Andrew:         What do you need a fake I.D. for?
Brian:             So I can vote.
—Emilio Estevez as Andrew Clark and Anthony Michael Hall as Brian Johnson in The Breakfast Club

I wish I were making this up, but I’m not that clever. 

Continuing a theme struck by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz back in June, the NAACP is crying that GOP-backed voting laws are “designed to restrict or limit the ballot access of voters of color.”  At issue are rules requiring I.D. to vote, restrictions on voting by felons, and limits on registration and early voting periods.  A lot of this is same-old, same-old, but the NAACP is taking this Quixotic quest against imaginary racism to new depths:

They’re appealing to the United Nations for help.

That’s right, the NAACP is pre-emptively asking the U.N.—that beacon of support for democracy and bastion against corruption—to intervene in the 2012 U.S. elections.  Maybe next they’ll petition for statehood recognition.

The self-defeating irony here would be comic if it weren’t so damn dangerous.  The only “enforcement” mechanism the U.N. has to bring to bear is the imposition of massive global economic sanctions against the U.S.  Is that really what you want to do right now in the midst of a lengthy recession/depression/pseudo-non-recovery?  Who do you expect would be hurt the most by such an action? 

Alex, I’ll take “the very same low-income blacks who are allegedly being disenfranchised” for $1,000, please.

As I’ve previously discussed here, there is nothing racist or discriminatory about asking people who want to vote to demonstrate that they are who they say they are, and that they’re eligible to vote, which is all voter I.D. and registration rules do.  Frankly, I can’t believe there’s even any controversy about this:  if you’re going to have rules about who can and cannot vote (you have to be 18, you have to be a U.S. citizen), why would you not have some mechanism in place to enforce them?  The only real reason to oppose such rules is if you are interested in cheating.

The argument, of course, is that such rules effectively disenfranchise blacks because blacks disproportionately lack the required identification.  To support this argument, the NAACP continues to whip the tired horse that is the 2006 report of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, which claimed that as many as 25% of voting age blacks don’t have a current government-issued photo I.D.  A few things are worth noting about that report:

  • It purports to extrapolate national figures based on a telephone survey of a grand total of 987 participants, that also “weighted” the results “to account for underrepresentation of race,” but the report doesn’t say how.  In other words, they extrapolate from an extremely limited sample that, in some undisclosed way, deliberately skewed minority data.
  • It is unclear how these 987 participants were selected.  The report says they were selected at random, but we do not know from what pool (a phone book? tax rolls? arrest records?) or in what geography (were these people selected nationwide, or all in Queens?).  Nor do we know what mechanism was used to ensure randomness.
  • The report claims its 987 participants were all voting-age U.S. citizens—how do they know from a phone call?  What do you suppose the odds are that someone here illegally will say “yes” when asked by a stranger in a random phone call if they are a citizen?  I guess we’re just to take them all at their word, which is really what voter I.D. opponents are advocating as the benchmark for voting.
  • 135 participants said they had both a U.S. birth certificate and a naturalization certificate, which the study says is likely due to their confusion between the two.  Such confusion in itself reinforces the point above, but giving them the benefit of the doubt, do we really want people voting who are that easily confused?  I’m just saying.  How many more confused the question do you have an I.D. with do you have an I.D. on you right now as we’re talking on the phone?
Most importantly, however, and the point that continues to be lost is that this report and those who rely upon it are asking the wrong question, which is whether people have an I.D.  When an alleged 25% of blacks say they don’t, the NAACP and others then cry that requiring an I.D. to vote is racism, as though white people are simply born with the requisite papers while people of color aren’t.  The salient question isn’t whether blacks have I.D., because no one inherently has it; even white people have to get off their ass and go down to the DMV to get one.  The question is whether black people can get I.D. if they need it.

The NAACP says that for many it’s simply too onerous to get a photo I.D.  The $15 to $45 is just too expensive for many of the poor.  That States like Tennessee and South Carolina are offering free I.D.’s doesn’t really help, you see, because even then poor blacks don’t have and can’t afford the necessary underlying documentation required to obtain the free I.D. 


Tennessee, just by way of example, exempts from the I.D. requirement indigents who cannot obtain the requisite documents without paying a fee.  Further, under the instructions for obtaining a free voter I.D., Tennessee explicitly tells its residents that if they cannot obtain a birth certificate, they can speak with a service center manager who will work with them to identify alternative documents to prove citizenship (Texas takes things like school records and even inmate cards).  But even where free I.D. isn’t available, the cost simply isn’t that great.  In my home State of Texas, an I.D. costs $16.  That’s a grand total of 31 cents a week, or a little more than four cents a day

Furthermore, photo I.D.—or the kinds of underlying documents necessary to get one, such as birth certificates, passports, hospital records—are routinely required for all kinds of activities and services in modern American society.  You want to board an airplane?  Good luck without an I.D.  Many merchants require I.D. to use a credit card or write a check.  A lot of downtown buildings in major cities—including government buildings like courthouses—require photo I.D. to even walk in the door.  And in places like uber-racist/Tea Party hotbed New York require these kinds of I.D. to get food stamps.

The fact of the matter is that there is nothing difficult about getting the appropriate I.D., and we require it all the time in all sorts of contexts without raising charges of racism.  As I’ve said before, to make that claim is in itself racist, because what you’re saying is that blacks are children for whom we have to make special exceptions or dumb things down because they just can’t satisfy the rules applicable to everyone else.  You perpetuate a culture of victimhood, incompetence, and dependency, where society expects less of blacks and ultimately they come to expect less of themselves.

I’ll issue the same challenge to NAACP that I made several weeks ago to Representative Andre Carson (D-IN) after his Congress-wants-to-lynch-black-people rant:  name names.  Identify even one actual live human being who is eligible to vote and wants to vote but cannot because they cannot obtain the appropriate I.D.  And when you do, I’ll issue a second challenge:  why don’t you spend half the energy and effort you did on the U.N. to actually help that person get the I.D. they need?  


  1. I think you should ACTUALLY send them this challenge, since you know they're not gonna read this.

  2. There was an interesting article in the Houston Chronicle before one of the recent elections (maybe 2008) about voting in the country of Bhutan. Now I'm not sure, but I think the Bhutan is a small, underdeveloped, third world nation in some remote corner of Asia. The photo accompanying the article showed a group of Bhutanese lined up to vote. Each person displayed not one, but two photo ID's. If Bhutan can do it, so can we.

    Re another point - the opposition to voter photo ID laws have been challenged to produce someone who has been prevented from voting because they lack a photo ID or were prevented from obtaining them. One of the factors in the court deciding in favor of the photo ID law under consideration was that the challengers of the law were unable to produce a single such person.