One for One Programs and Voter ID Laws

With the Supreme Court essentially gutting the Voting Right Act, all sort of state houses are trying to make voting harder. Never mind that more than one constitutional amendment guarantees the right to vote for all sorts of demographics. The irony of course is that each one of those amendments has to spell out to old white men why people other than old white men should get the right to vote, and indeed have the right to vote. I’m still reminded of the exchange in the West Wing where Ainsley Hayes is arguing with Sam Seaborn about the ERA, and he can’t understand why she’s opposed to it. Her response is apt:

Because it’s humiliating. A new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man, I am mortified to discover there’s reason to believe I wasn’t before. I am a citizen of this country, I am not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old, white, men. The same Article 14 that protects you, protects me, and I went to law school just to make sure.

It is humiliating that in this day and age we still have to fight to protect the right to vote for people who don’t belong to the old, white man club. Yet we do, and I don’t see Voter ID laws going away anytime soon. So while the Justice Department works on different avenues, I propose a modest solution based on the one to one programs used by TOMS and Warby Parker, among others. When you renew your driver’s license or pay your yearly registration fee on your car, why can’t the forms have a box where you opt to pay for a government id for someone in need. The id in Texas is $16, $5 if you’re over 60. I’m not saying this solves the problem entirely, and there would be some logistical oversight issues and the one to one programs are not faultless. Nor does this solve the problem of getting people to the DMV to get their card. But it does start to address the cost factor. We should start fight on legal grounds, but the only way to really prevent voter oppression from happening is by getting people to the polls who can vote and making sure they don’t have logistical hurdles to cross. Then again, I’m the person who drove my little sister to Texas so she could vote this last election because Texas doesn’t allow college students to vote via absentee ballot.

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