On Nov. 8, I served as an election judge at Precinct 36 in Oak Park. Besides my fellow judges (who are the greatest), two things about this experience linger in my mind.
First, the vast majority of the 522 voters we processed approached the sign-in desk with a piece of identification — usually an Illinois driver’s license — in hand. Perhaps some did so to facilitate the look-up of their name, but we did that with last name and the number in their street address, verifying identity with their signature. Most voters volunteered ID in the reasonable expectation that they would be asked to prove their identity. After all, this is Cook County, where the dead have been known to miraculously vote. When told that an ID was not required, invariably the voter expressed surprise, even if only an “Oh.”
Nearly all people of both parties are decent and honest and will not tolerate vote fraud. You need identification to board a plane; to buy alcohol/cigarettes; to open a bank account; to apply for food stamps/welfare; to begin a job/unemployment; to pick up a prescription; to rent a hotel room/car; to get married; etc. But not to vote?!
None of the preceding are so important as voting — a right and duty of citizenship. Voters’ simple, unconscious, innately-decent behavior on Election Day gives lie to the phony notion that presenting an ID to vote is somehow “discriminatory.”
Secondly, when I saw it on the ballot, the advisory referendum about repealing the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution triggered a laugh. When I realized that it wasn’t a Kafka-esque joke, I voted No, only to learn later that it passed!
In 1775, We the People rose up as a militia to reclaim our freedom by force from an oppressive government. Our founding fathers enshrined in our Constitution the timeless, God-given right of free men to bear arms. Having won freedom at the point of a gun, our founders trustingly passed forward to us the same ultimate means of preserving it.
The value of an armed populace is that it constitutes the ultimate insurance policy for freedom. Why is that so hard to see? Firstly, this value is invisible. It’s hard to see the value of home insurance until your home burns down. Secondly, time has eroded the collective memory that tyranny (of left or right) can, and will, happen again, as it has countless times in 7,000 years of bloody human history. Thirdly, for some people, emotional opinions are more comfortable than hard facts.
The violence in Chicago won’t be stopped by banning guns — any more than drunkenness was stopped by Prohibition, or narcotrafficantes are halted by mere laws — and Chicago already has the toughest gun laws of any major U.S. city. It is a social problem: 87% of the Chicago shootings are done by blacks and Hispanics, mainly with gang affiliations.
For years, Oak Park was ridiculed for pompously proclaiming itself a “Nuclear-free Zone.” With this referendum, we have courageously found a new way to embarrass ourselves by rejecting the very means to safeguard our freedom.
Joseph Wemhoff is a 34-year resident of Oak Park. A former banker, he teaches corporate finance at a university in the Chicago area.