Republican legislatures around the United States are passing laws to restrict voting by the poor and minorities that are more likely to vote against Republicans. An example of how untruthful these people are – they are largely acolytes of a former president lied far more than he told the truth – and based on his big lie, they mask their disenfranchisement movement as a way to protect election integrity and to make it easy to vote. A major component of these new laws is photo identification requirements for voting.
One of the positive aspects of our legal system is that judges most often have to explain why they decide the way they do. In a spirited dissent to a decision by the 7th Circuit Court of appeals to allow a photo ID requirement to remain in force in Wisconsin (technically it was a decision not to re-hear a decision supporting the photo ID law), Judge Richard Posner, formerly at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote a comprehensive explanation why photo ID laws are voter suppression tools. It is a relatively brief and comprehensive exposition of the issues and a quick way to get up to speed.
A contention that Judge Posner refutes is that it is easy to obtain a photo ID. All one has to do, according to proponents of photo ID, is get your birth certificate and then go to a DMV and get a driver license or state photo ID. Easy Peasy. Judge Posner points out, regarding the position of the court in its decision in favor of photo ID laws that the cost of obtaining a state photo ID is low, that it is not as easy as they say:
It assumes the cost is negligible. That’s an easy assumption for federal judges to make, since we are given photo IDs by court security free of charge. And we have upper-middle-class salaries. Not everyone is so fortunate. It’s been found that “the expenses [of obtaining a photo ID] for documentation, travel, and waiting time are significant—especially for minority groups and low-income voters—typically ranging from about $75 to $175. … Even when adjusted for inflation, these figures represent substantially greater costs than the $1.50 poll tax outlawed by the 24th amendment in 1964.
Later, Judge Posner adds in his dissenting opinion:
The author of this dissenting opinion has never seen his birth certificate and does not know how he would go about “scrounging” it up. Nor does he enjoy waiting in line at motor vehicle bureaus. There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.
To illustrate the burden, at the end of his dissent he added as an appendix a Wisconsin application for late registration of birth, a two page form. Judge Posner’s point is that the obstacles to voting are not based on any need for them and that these obstacles impose a burden that discourages or makes impossible the right to vote. The late registrations are necessary for people not born in hospitals and thus not issued birth certificates, a normal occurrence for babies born in hospitals,
While Judge Posner lays out the burdens, he doesn’t discuss burdens outside of “scrounging” for late registrations of birth and/or obtaining the photo ID from a DMV. While being born in the United States and obtaining a photo ID is difficult enough, for, for example, a baby born to an itinerant sharecropping African-American family in rural America, things are exponentially worse for Mexican American families. Their requests for late registrations of birth are often based on the declarations of people present at the birth. These late-registrations are often not recognized. The U.S. State Department does not trust them for passport issuance or in support of citizenship claims. Foreign birth certificates of births registered late are often not recognized by the State Department or domestic immigration authorities, such as USCIS, requiring costly and time consuming DNA tests and other elaborate proofs.
Additionally, while under United States law people born in the United States are most often citizens at birth, there are provisions for people born abroad to obtain U.S. citizenship by derivation or acquisition. The burdens are far in excess of the burdens for those “merely” seeking late registration of birth. In addition, as opposed to the $175 Judge Posner asserts is the cost of obtaining a late registration of birth, the fee USCIS charges to obtain a certificate of citizenship is an astronomical $1,170, among the highest of any fee. Higher fees do exist for millionaire investors seeking permanent residence, but bear in mind that the $1,170 process is not to make a person a citizen, but to create a certificate proving that they already are. In addition, the form, USCIS Form N-600, is not just the two pages long Judge Posner illustrates in the appendix to his dissenting opinion as burdensome, but rather fifteen pages long. And ploughing through the acquisition and derivation rules is no picnic.
To many foreign born citizens and many with late-registrations of birth, the disenfranchisement caused by photo ID laws is more egregious than the disenfranchisement of the 9 percent potentially disenfranchised for lacking photo ID in Wisconsin. That’s no way to run an airline (which, Judge Posner points out, despite the myth, allows people without photo ID to fly). Posted June 27, 2021.