An American mom wonders about voting

22 Comments

I have some sincere questions about voting. To me, voting is a privilege and a personal responsibility but I’m really struggling about something. Maybe you can help.

“Voting is a big decision,” Ike contemplates the significance of his choice.

Cue reverse time travel machine…Twelve years ago, I took my three OS with me to vote. Our county had a kids’ voting program which I loved. It was truly adorable to see each of them check off the candidates they wanted to be in public office. Of course at the time, I influenced their decisions. They wanted my opinion which I offered but I also reminded them that it was THEIR vote ultimately. They could check any boxes they liked but just one per political office. Nate, Aaron and Ike were 12, 6 and 4 respectively and it was a big deal. We celebrated the right we ALL had to vote.

Now I have two OS of voting age. As many of you know I have a 2012 West Point graduate who is an officer in the Army. He’s also a comparative politics major. For Nate, politics is the intellectual equivalent of a bowl of slightly melted vanilla ice cream with warmed caramel sauce and sprinkles on top or a massaged kale salad depending on how you roll. I roll both ways sometimes during the same day.

And it will be Aaron’s first time voting as an adult! Not that he is especially excited about either of the presidential candidates but we have long taught our OS that they must vote. It matters. I’ve been on both sides of the political aisle. The Hubs and I have cancelled each other’s votes in the past. (That doesn’t happen anymore, we are both in agreement on most political issues). I wear the “I Voted” sticker all day with pride and have even transferred the sticker to another shirt if I spilled something on the previous shirt just so everyone would know that I had declared my preferences. Dare I say, I have choked back a few tears as I have left polling places, I’m not exaggerating. My grandma worked at the polls for years and instilled in us the importance of voting. She was quite proud of herself and I loved that about her.

I’m just so confused about why we don’t have to show an ID when doing this. The first time I went to vote here in my hometown, I was ready to produce my ID. It took me aback when they told me there was no need. How could that be? Couldn’t someone pretend to be me and just show up and take my “voice” away? In this digital age, it seems easier than ever. If you have to show an ID to board a plane, pick up a prescription, heck, get a Sam’s Club card, why shouldn’t people wishing to vote be required to show a picture ID?

“One day I’m going to West Point and be a comparative politics major and have huge muscles!”

I understand that a homeless person might not be able to vote if s/he didn’t have an ID. That is unfortunate. I want people who have polar opposite opinions to be able to put their voice in the mix. Still though, a homeless person would have to have some kind of identification if s/he needed social services, right? What am I missing? I just don’t get it.

Everyone should be able to vote but it’s baffling how producing a reliable form of ID prohibits a person from doing so. Honestly I see it as the opposite. Using a form of identification allows MY voice to be MINE. Your voice to be yours.

Respectful thoughts most welcome…

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22 thoughts on “An American mom wonders about voting

  1. In some states, they mail ballots–so no one even knows who is filling them out! And, what if the voter is dead? No one knows…I totally agree; but in GA we have voter ID laws.

    • Thanks Lisa! That only makes it more complicated! I think of how easy it would be to vote on behalf of another person and s/he would be none the wiser at least not here. Since we both have sons in the military, I feel it is more my duty than ever before to cast my vote and on local issues, I think it has a different but equally important value.

  2. This is a very complicated issue, and I can send you some links to good articles that look at both sides. But I am of the opinion that you should not have to show ID. I worked the polls in Wake County for several years, and you (as you know) do have to state personal info to get your ballot. Yes, you have to show ID for other things, but the things you listed are not guaranteed to you by Constitutional amendments. Also, there is a Constitutional protection against a poll tax, and so to make someone buy an ID in order to vote is in a way charging them a tax to vote. I honestly don’t know how people can get by without an ID, but there are people (almost all poor and/or elderly and mostly in big cities) who do not have a photo ID. And those people are being denied a constitutional right by many states now because they don’t have a little card with their photo on it. I am sure if states would provide IDs free of charge, they would have one.

    Also, if you look at the data, there have been maybe 10 cases of voter fraud in the last 10 years or something (I can get the exact number) and yet states are willing to spend millions of dollars to make these new laws that don’t provide IDs, but require them, all to protect against something that is not even happening. But there are certainly more than 10 American citizens who will have no voice in this or any election if voter ID requirements are allowed to stand.

    What we really need to be asking is why we aren’t required to show our voter registration card. That makes more sense, as everyone who votes has to have one of those, so why not show that?

    • Thanks Jenn! I like your idea of showing a voter registration card. When I recently voted in local elections they asked for my address and birthday. I find it disconcerting since I want to vote and I don’t want anyone to do it for me. I am suspicious that there have been only 10 cases of voter fraud though. I’d like to believe people are generally honest but I don’t and when it comes to winning an election, I have no confidence whatsoever that it doesn’t happen. I appreciate your perspective!

      • Well, if you think about it, one would have to be extremely busy on election day to impersonate enough people to actually make a difference in an election. The greater danger of voter fraud lies in absentee ballots, where someone could theoretically falsify large numbers of ballots. But we have to be careful of putting restrictions on those since, as you well know, absentee ballots are used frequently by service members. It’s just frustrating for me that the people most affected by voter ID laws are (yet again) those who have the least clout. If there is any day where they should have equal standing with those of us who never have to worry about little things like photo ID, it’s election day.

  3. Voter fraud has been rampant within the past 10 years. Do a simple Google search on the matter and you will find TONS of articles with proof. Most of the fraud happens in voter registration. So showing that isn’t the solution either. It’s absolutely false information and a scare tactic perpetrated by the media regarding the poor and the elderly not being able to obtain an ID.

    Most states’ cost of IDs are less than $10. Even a homeless person could come up with that if they really wanted to. Not saying easily, but it is possible.

    It is unbelievable to me that someone could actually walk into my precinct and steal my vote! How about a fingerprint scan or something?

    • Hi Matt,

      It is a complex issue and I think it is something people talk about with a wink and a nod. I am suspicious of someone trying to take my vote as much as I would be if someone did it to a person I completely disagree with politically. Thanks for your insight and passion!

  4. I have worked as an election judge for the last 20 years, and I am absolutely in favor of voter identification. Identification is required to do just about anything in our society anymore. Open a bank account, cash a check, rent a house, apply for a job, register for school, buy a car, be admitted to a hospital, on and on, they all require id. It is true, as jtousey says, that all of those things are not guaranteed by the Constitution, but I don’t think that is the issue. IMO the issue is that voting is so much more that cashing a check or getting a Sam’s card. Voting is a privilege reserved ONLY for American citizens, so much the more should the vote be protected.

    • Ah, I love to hear your voice in this! Another one of my VERY non-milquetoast friends. I admit I am unaware of myriad issues and can’t figure out THE solution. It’s a burden in my heart as I try to see both sides. Thanks for sharing and giving me more to think about! ❤

  5. These are my final thoughts; I appreciate the discussion and the fact that it has been civil!

    As far as voter fraud goes, there are always allegations of fraud following elections. Always. But those allegations are very rarely substantiated. The voter fraud that *does* (rarely) happen is by people registering to vote illegally, NOT by people impersonating others. You would be extremely hard-pressed to find any examples of people pretending to be other people and voting for them. So while I totally understand your fears, forcing people to show ID will not prevent the kind voter fraud that has happened before.

    What the ID requirements WILL do is set up roadblocks that will make it more difficult for thousands of legally registered voters (some who have been voting legally for decades, mind you) to receive a ballot on election day. I know I don’t need to walk you through history to remind you of the suffering and dying that has occurred to make voting a right for every eligible citizen in this country. And it doesn’t matter if it only costs $10. It doesn’t matter if it only costs a quarter- you are still saying to a citizen of this country, “hey, you have to go buy this thing before I give you a ballot.”

    In PA, the state is offering free IDs to people for the purpose of voting, which I applaud. But there are still many things required to obtain that ID; a SS card, a birth certificate, and TWO forms of proof of address. And homeless people can get one, too, if they bring a shelter worker to the DMV with them to prove they live in the shelter. Again, more and more restrictions that make it more and more difficult for people just to walk into their precinct and do the thing you want to do: cast their one vote.

    I know I am going on too long, but as someone who loves this country, loves history and loves the Constitution, I get really fired up at the thought of people being kept from the polls. I think anything that is reminiscent of Jim Crow & grandfather clauses should make us all a little twitchy. Yes, I would rather take the very small risk that someone would vote illegally than take the very large risk that eligible voters will be turned away in November.

      • Thank you for being brave and writing an honest post about it. Honestly, things are so tense now that engaging in these conversations where they get nasty makes my stomach hurt, so I don’t bother. I appreciate that you created a place where we could engage and even disagree on some points while still maintaining harmony. And thus continues your reign as one of the most awesome people I know!

      • Well, then I’m privileged to have written the post! I can’t stand nasties and there are some other subjects where I probably am not as open to hearing another side (ask Nate because we’ve had some intense conversations) but I think it’s interesting to hear other opinions. I have stayed away from some subjects because it feels like I’d be stung by hornets. I know of a woman who voiced a personal opinion about a very hot button subject (one you and I feel strongly about) and she was destroyed on her facebook. Kids that had been over to her house years ago attacked her with such hate and meanness it was overwhelming. I can get riled up about many things, we fellow NON-milquetoasts gotta stick together! ❤

  6. OK… now that all the civil people have weighed in, it’s my turn. KIDDING. Kidding people. It’s good to read the comments from both sides when their delivered in a thoughtful and respectful way.

    I really don’t know how much of a problem this is. But I do know this. Voting IS a right, and I believe a responsibility, guaranteed by the constitution. As such, it’s something worth protecting especially if there are thoughtful, reasonable things that we can do to ensure that protection.

    The memories of poll taxes and Jim Crow laws in this country are, and will continue to be, very real things that we need to continue to address in this country, and rightly so. That said, I believe that we do everyone a disservice in stating assumptions about people that make them out to be incapable of participating in even the most insignificant way in and for our democracy. Most, if not all, states are willing to pay the price for voter ID’s, To assume that a poor person is incapable of acquiring something that we all know they almost universally already have is insulting and demeaning… not to me but to the poor people that we’re discussing. We lift people out of despair by helping them to claim their abilities, by holding them responsible for those things that they are responsible for, not making excuses for them that make them less than God has made them to be.

    • I can always count on you to explain things to me in a way I can understand. You never make me feel stupid. Thanks for contributing to the conversation in a way that won’t make us have an argument. I love you. ❤

  7. What a great discussion! I am also of the opinion that voters should NOT have to show ID. It too easy to manipulate the voting “qualifications” to discriminate when voter ID laws are created by partisan politicians. I live in WA state were we have mail in voting. We are required to sign our ballot and I personally have been contacted because they did not feel my signature matched the signature they had on file for me. Of course this would not work for all voters as some may not have contact info, but it does say they are vetting the ballots for authentic signatures. I also believe that if there is cheating going on, individuals voting for each party will be guilty…and very likely at the same percentage as legal votes cast for the candidates – canceling each other out mostly. It is very important to our democracy that ALL citizens get to vote, and we don’t need obstacles to that happening.

    • Thank Liane, I appreciate your perspective. I didn’t know that WA had mail-in voting and am glad there have been measures to confirm that you are who you say you are when you vote. How do they tally the votes up and know the answers to the election results if they are contacting people about signatures? I’ll just add that up to the many questions I’m trying to understand. Thanks for your contribution and the respectful way you spoke it. I think it makes it much easier to hear an idea when people do so in the tone you have shared. Bless you!

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