This election cycle Minnesota’s ballot will have a question asking whether an amendment should be made to the state constitution that would require presenting photo identification when voting (generally referred to as the voter ID amendment). Supporters of the initiative claim the measure is necessary to prevent voter fraud while opponents claim the added hurdle of having to acquire photo identification will disenfranchise the poor and minorities. What’s interesting is the general cognitive dissonance occurring on both sides of this debate.
As with any American political debate the two opposing sides can be generally identified by party lines. Self-identified republicans generally support the amendment while self-identified democrats generally oppose it. Let’s peel back the rhetoric regarding this issue for a second and look at it through another lens, carry permits. Laws requiring individuals to receive a permit to carry a firearm are very similar to laws requiring photo identification to vote. Voting and bearing arms are both Constitutionally guaranteed rights. Both rights are used to wield weaponry (granted the state is a far more dangerous weapon than a firearm but the analogy still holds). Requiring any kind of permitting process to exercise either right adds a barrier to entry that affects poor individuals disproportionally.
In Minnesota one must attend a training class in order to qualify for a permit. Once an individual has successfully passed the required training class they must file for a permit at their local Sheriff’s office. Both the class and filing for the permit cost money. The cost of the class varies but the average price point appears to hover around $100.00 while the cost for apply for a permit is set by the Sheriff’s office but can’t exceed $100.00 (which is the price if you’re living in Hennepin County). An individual wanting to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms in Minnesota is looking at shelling out $200.00 (and the permit is only good for five years, after which you need to go through the whole process again). Needless to say an extremely poor individual who is living from paycheck to paycheck is going to find it very difficult to exercise their right to bear arms.
Voter ID legislation, like laws requiring carry permits to exercise your right to bear arms, adds a barrier to entry for those wanting to vote. While the amendment being presented in Minnesota requires photo identification for the purposes of voting be given out for free an individual still has to invest their time in obtaining identification. As most government offices are only open during normal business hours getting a permit often requires taking time off of work, which is very difficult if you’re living from paycheck to paycheck. It also requires getting to a government office, which can be difficult for poor individuals who cannot afford an automobile or cab fare. Needless to say free photo identification isn’t free.
Laws requiring carry permits to exercise the right to bear arms are similar to voter ID laws in another way, both are supported by fear mongering instead of facts. Supporters of voter ID laws claim that such laws will prevent rampant voter fraud but have no proof that rampant voter fraud is happening. Supporters of carry permit laws claim such restrictions are necessary to prevent violent individual from carrying firearms but have no proof that such restrictions will prevent violent individual from carrying firearms. When the creation of boogeymen is necessary in order to garner support for legislation then you know that legislation is bad.
What’s interesting is that, in general, self-identified republicans oppose restrictions on the right to bear arms while self-identified democrats support restrictions to varying extents. Self-identified republicans will often support so-called constitutional carry laws, laws that abolish any permitting process for individuals wanting to legally carry a firearm, while self-identified democrats will often oppose them. Yet the tables turn when it comes to voter ID legislation. Suddenly self-identified republicans are the ones generally supporting restrictions to the exercise of a right while self-identified democrats are the ones generally opposing restrictions. Consistency and politics seldom go hand in hand.
I oppose voter ID laws and laws requiring carry permits in order to exercise the right to bear arms. Both restrictions exist to disenfranchise individuals from exercising their rights, both restrictions are supported by fear mongering instead of facts, and both restrictions are state grabs for power.