Saturday, August 25, 2012


Up with which polling places ought not have to put

I am not in favor of categorical disenfranchising, such as using literacy tests. On the contrary, I would be in favor of proxy votes for parents of minors and curators and tutors of dependent adults to provide for enfranchising representatives of those probably incompetent to vote. But is knowing your own name an unfair 'literacy test'?

This week I received a [fund-raising solicitation] message saying, in part,
If you’ve ever gone by a nickname, you may not be able to vote in November.

Sound absurd? It is. But it’s the reality in states like Pennsylvania, where a new voter ID law could disqualify a voter named Robert if his driver’s license says Bob. All told, the law could disenfranchise nearly 10 percent of voters.
 Why, I wonder, would his driver's license say 'Bob' if his parents declared his name to be 'Robert'? He is mature and sophisticated enough to be allowed to drive an automobile and assume the responsibility for his driving (and vote), but not mature and sophisticated enough to know his legal (on his birth certificate and Social Security card) name when he named himself on the application form? I suggest
Why should potential voters who don't consistently identify themselves by the same name on state-issued documents be recognized when they attempt to vote using one of their aliases? Why should citizens be allowed to change their names from one state-issued document to another to begin with? I don't think they should.

Maybe it could be construed as the State's paternalistic fault for not requiring a birth certificate to issue ID such as a driver's license, but let's presume we are talking about adult, responsible citizens: who may not even know their own names!  And let's encourage individual responsibility and competence rather than authoritarianism.

There may be other problems with voter ID laws, but obfuscating one's own name on the ID one expects to use to vote seems to me something up with which polling places ought not have to put.

I live in a foreign country, where voters register and then receive a voter registration card to sign and present with ID when they go to vote. I suppose people show their ID when they register at their city or town hall and so their registered name matches their ID. Is that so complicated? Too much to ask? Is American government too underdeveloped to handle it?

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