I am an amoeba in a world full of boxes.
I am a nerd, a coffee snob, a knitter, a writer, a photographer, an artist, a musician, a lover of literature, a lover of people, a lover of Truth, a seeker of Knowledge, a fighter, a lone wolf, a terrified twenty-something, a fractured mind, a strong soul, loyal to a fault, socially phobic, philosophically inclined, and frequently paradoxical.
These are my thoughts.
I am going to do something I rarely do. I am going to blog about political things.
So we all know about the proposed marriage amendment here in Minnesota, and that is an important thing, and I will probably be addressing that in another blog. But today I have been thinking (and discussing with Dragon) about another equally important but different thing on the ballot: the voter ID law.
Basically, the idea is that requiring potential voters to have a photo ID in order to vote will prevent voter fraud. At first glance, this sounds like a pretty innocuous idea. Preventing voter fraud is a good thing, right?
Right. But is it actually an issue?
(click the image for the original page this is from)
(Also, UFO sightings are 3,615 times more common. Both of these things focus on a similar law on the ballot in Pennsylvania, but the information is just as valid for the Minnesota law.)
There are two big points I want to talk about here. One is that a lot of people don’t have photo IDs. The other is that not everyone who has one looks like the picture on their ID.
For those of us who drive (or travel out of the US), the whole photo ID thing doesn’t seem like a big deal. But there are plenty of people who don’t necessarily fall into these categories. The two groups that immediately come to my mind are some homeless voters, and older citizens, those who no longer (or never did) drive, and who aren’t out there applying for jobs or doing other things that require a photo ID. I think of my grandfather, who is blind and doesn’t have a driver’s license anymore. Maybe he has some other form of photo ID that I don’t know about, but if he lived in Minnesota, how degrading would it be to show up to the polls like he has for years and years and years and be told that, simply because he has no photo ID, he can’t vote? It might be a different situation if we lived in the sort of society where some form of photo ID was automatically issued to every citizen. But we don’t live in that kind of society, and so this proposed law disenfranchises a lot of people who don’t have another reason (or lack some means) to acquire a photo ID.
The issue that has been particularly heavy on my mind tonight is the other one that I mentioned: some people don’t necessarily match their IDs. The thought came up when someone pointed out that one of the groups disenfranchised by this law are trans* people, whose presentation might not match their legal photo ID. It doesn’t just apply to trans* people, though: other people go through changes that can cause them to appear differently in person than they do on their ID: significant weight gain or loss, for instance, or even a drastic change in hair style.
Let me give you a real life example of this.
Unless you’ve known me for a few years, you might be surprised to learn that this driver’s license is, in fact, mine. (The first time my best friend saw my license, she told me it looked like my twin sister’s ID.)
What would a stranger at a polling place think when comparing me to my ID picture? It’s possible that they would look hard enough to see the similarities. It’s possible that I would be allowed to vote.
It’s also possible that a person could look at my ID, with its “F” gender marker and more feminine photograph, and then look at me in real life, in my button down and tie and masculine haircut and bound chest, and decide that I was not the person my ID says I am (which, to some extent, is true, I guess, but it’s still my legal identity), and deny me the right to vote.
This is incredibly distressing. I am a citizen of this country and have just as much of a right to have my voice heard as the next person. Why should I have to fear being denied that right simply because my presentation has changed since my ID was issued?
Aside from that, showing my ID to anyone who doesn’t know me, even when I’m ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant, brings with it a certain level of stress. I imagine this is the same for many people who have issues with self-image, no matter what the reason. There are days when I refrain from buying a drink, not because I don’t want one, but because I can’t handle the thought of some stranger calling me by a name that is feeling increasingly uncomfortable. While I would do my best to push past that stress and try to vote anyway, I know that, for some people, that discomfort would be enough to keep them in the house on election day.
There’s also the question of whether the people enforcing this proposed law would be able to remain neutral in who they allowed to vote. I want to believe that we live in a society where such enforcers would turn away potential voters based on assumptions as to the potential voter’s political stance, but the possibility is there. People on either end of the political spectrum could get caught up in such behavior. That kind of power is a dangerous thing to be doling out.
This law doesn’t discourage voter fraud. It discourages voting.