Monday, August 20, 2012

Voter Unidentifiability

Hal Pepinsky,,
August 20, 2012
                I live in Ohio.  With so much press furor surrounding whether requiring state-issued photo id from voters  tends to disenfranchise the poor and the disabled, I decided to follow up on a tip given me by Columbus social services caseworker and friend Diane Donato:  How could I get voter id if I were homeless, unemployed, and had no id?
                Proponents of the voter id requirement tell us that all any resident needs to get one is a birth certificate.  With help from my local public reference librarian and further web searches, I discovered that I’d be lucky to live in Ohio in one respect: Ohio is among the minority of states that regards birth certificates as public records.  That means that if I had been born in Ohio, I wouldn’t need any id to get my own birth certificate or anyone else’s.  I’d just need to pay $21.50 to the Ohio treasurer as a processing fee.  If I didn’t even have money for food, I’d just need transportation to get to the Catholic charity, JOIN, in downtown Columbus, the only place in the area that would once in my lifetime pay for my birth certificate.  (Thanks, Diane Donato, for that info.)
                Trouble is, I was born in Douglas County, Kansas.  Kansas is one of the majority of states that requires me to provide copies of the same kinds of id that I would need to get a social security card or driver’s license (or substitute if I didn’t drive).  Resident of Kansas or not, I’d need copies of two of the following forms of secondary documentation—a social security card or bank statement with ss# and home address on it, a utility bill with home address, or a pay stub.  With no card, no bank account, no home and no on-the-books job, I’d have no way to get my birth certificate even if I could pay for it.
                My community, like those around me, is overflowing with people who are unemployed and homeless.  If I, an Ohioan from Kansas, were one of them with no valid picture id, I couldn’t get the birth certificate and ss card I’d need to get the state-issued id I’d need to vote.  As if voting would be foremost list of daily things to do to eat and stay warm.  And I might be homeless in part because I had a felony on my record.  It’s ironic that having state photo id meant you had a record that could be held against you; now you need a state photo record not only to board a bus or a plane, but to enjoy every citizen’s constitutionally guaranteed right even to vote.
It started out in my country that you had to be a propertied white guy to vote; now the property I need is either an up-to-date state photo at hand, or an on-the-books job and a home.  I’m told that there are many people in town who have access to neither.  If you’re down and out, you don’t count.  Love and peace--hal

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant illustration of why this IS an issue of concern regarding voter disenfranchisement in the USA. It has inspired me to work as much for voting rights in the US as we do to encourage free and fair elections globally.
    Thanks Hal.