The problem with voter ID laws

Opinion: Columns

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A level of justice was served to thousands of voters in Pennsylvania recently. While more "free speech" rights are being served to corporations and others who seek to influence our elections, we continue to see bare-faced attacks on one of our cherished rights here in America - the right to vote. However, at least for this election cycle, the voters of Pennsylvania will not have to worry about having in their possession a piece of plastic to prove who they are so they can vote.

Though polls claim the majority of Americans support Voter ID laws, liberty and freedom from discriminatory laws should not be contingent on what a majority of people want. Tough voter ID requirements, largely pushed by Republicans, are nothing more than a form of voter disenfranchisement, comparable to a literacy test or poll tax — it places a barrier between the voter and his/her right to cast a vote.

I can say this with great confidence after spending the past five weeks in Pennsylvania attempting to understand the process to obtain an ID and helping individuals get IDs. To make this argument I will share one specific story:

Benny is an African-American man in his 50s who lives by himself. He has never really had a need for an ID. I met him on his first visit to the DMV — his first unsuccessful visit to obtain the free ID that the state of Pennsylvania claims is not difficult to get. On another visit, he was given an address verification form — a form that is supposed to be given to individuals who have no form of mail or documents to prove their residence — despite the fact that he brought in the required two pieces of mail.

He was incorrectly told to have someone at his residence fill it out and sign it, along with bringing two pieces of that individual's mail. Upon telling the DMV employee that he lives alone, he was told, "That is what you need to do." Benny later received a letter with an identification number that the state of Pennsylvania claiming in court that if an individual received said letter, "all they need to do is bring that letter and they will be issued an ID." Benny brought this letter and two proofs of address on his third visit to the DMV. This time he was told to come back in two weeks with no explanation as to why, countering the state's court testimony that an individual will get an ID if they bring in the letter. It wasn't until I accompanied Benny to the same DMV, on the very same day he was told to come back in two weeks, that he received his ID. There are many other stories similar to his.

If this was not a form of voter suppression then I don't know what is. This is why a level of justice was served in Pennsylvania. Voters were going to be suppressed because of this undue difficulty preventing thousands of American citizens from obtaining a piece of plastic to prove who they are. The Voter ID laws implemented across the nation are a reminder that we need uniform federal laws to assure that individual rights are not threatened by politically motivated parties.

Dylan Bellisle is a resident of Forest Park.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: October 22nd, 2012 10:33 AM

People First, Actually you are correct. The majority of individuals I met that were coming specifically to get an ID to vote where Senior Citizens. Again, majority. And I met many people over 4 weeks of being in Penn.

People First  

Posted: October 21st, 2012 10:54 PM

Voice of Reason seems anything but. The people most impacted by the voter ID requirements are senior citizens. They've voted in elections most of their adult lives and now are being ordered to provide a specific piece of indentification that was never previously demanded. Obtaining the supporting documents now needed can be daunting while in other cases simply not available. The few IDs one may possess are not acceptable and significant expenses can be incurred in order to comply. Unreasonable!


Posted: October 21st, 2012 8:34 PM

Thanks Ruth. I feel the same as you. To be frank i didnt understand the extent of the problem many faced until i was there talking with folks learning about their experiences .

Ruth from Oak Park  

Posted: October 21st, 2012 7:58 PM

Thanks for the article Dylan. Sad that most of the people commenting here seem to be entrenched in a world view removed from the reality of how people live. I guess it's sometimes easier to judge others than to acknowledge, understand, and maybe try to do something about injustices in our society.


Posted: October 21st, 2012 6:07 PM

The Social Security Office has many ways they can bend the rules that don't have the correct documentation. This is NOT the case for a regular state issued ID. So because I have worked on Immigration you question me of illegal activity? Wow. Amazing. I have great respect for our legal voting system, and am dedicated to having it work for all who are eligible. At this moment my work does not focus on immigration issues. But thanks for being so curious about me that you did a google search.


Posted: October 21st, 2012 6:03 PM

Voice, I assure you the 98 year old woman I met was voting GOP. When you look at the aging population that has difficulties getting IDs, its not as skewed to Democratic. You read the article correct? The issue many folks were having was having to do with not getting and ID, when in fact they should have. I helped, and met many people in that situation. Its not so easy if you were born in another state, don't have your Birth Certificate and are poor.

Voice of Reason from Oak Park  

Posted: October 21st, 2012 4:44 PM

Dylan, shouldn't you also disclose that you work on immigration cases in your professional life? So, this isn't really about citizens getting ID, it's about everyone getting an ID, citizen or not. Do you encourage illegal aliens to vote? Which is a slightly different issue, isn't it? Perhaps you should also let people know that you're the mastermind behind "Occupy Oak Park"....

Voice of Reason from Oak Park  

Posted: October 21st, 2012 4:37 PM

The comments are partisan because the issue is fundamentally partisan. Those who need help getting IDs seem to mostly support liberal candidates, while the rest of us seem to be able to figure it out. It's not's annoying and time consuming, but it's not hard. If it were seen as important (i.e., like a social security or other check from the gov't) it would already be done. But bless you helping others to do something that you think is important even if they don't.

People First  

Posted: October 21st, 2012 2:57 PM

Say nothing if all you've got is a weak one-liner.

Dylan Deebag  

Posted: October 21st, 2012 2:53 PM

My father was a staunch conservative and voted straight line Republican until the day he died. Now, he votes Democrat.


Posted: October 21st, 2012 11:47 AM

Lastly, I find it interesting how partisan some of the comments have been. in the originally article I didn't mention the words GOP, or Republican. I could have made the article extremely political bringing up GOP State Senator Turzai and his comment that the ID law would allow Romney to win, but I didn't. I wrote this article to highlight the personal difficulty one man had in being able to practice a fundamental right. And how he was not just one person, but an example of many..


Posted: October 21st, 2012 11:17 AM

In terms of Benny, you would be surprised. Many check cash places, and even banks sometimes bend rules so they can get business, Accepting just a social security card, or even a work ID. But to get an regular ID you need a Birth Certificate. In terms of state benefits, which I never said Benny accepted, I think in many cases a SS card and mail can suffice.


Posted: October 21st, 2012 11:14 AM

Realitysux, Instead of seeing and admitting that everyone will NOT be able to get their ID, the State continued to fight in court for the law, despite the overwhelming evidence that it is not CURRENTLY working. This is why the Conservative Judge ruled as he did. If the GOP was not politically motivated then why did Penn House Majority Leader say the ID law would help Romney win in Penn?


Posted: October 21st, 2012 11:07 AM

Realitysux, We already know there are issues with the DMV, Politicians know this. If they were TRULY dedicated to making sure everyone had and could get an ID to vote they would not roll out the requirement so quickly. - This is exactly why the Conservative Judge ruled as he did. To point out that its not just the DMV workers. The Penn Legislature did not allocate additional funding for the ID roll out. No funding for training, new workers, etc.


Posted: October 21st, 2012 11:03 AM

from OPRF, Also the difference between my posts and yours is that you started yours off with an insult . "Pure leftist drivel." Unlike Nelson, who wanted to engage in a conversation and had a view point, you chose to start off with an insult. That is not a mature action.


Posted: October 21st, 2012 11:01 AM

From OP, It is my right to have a strong opinion is it not? I never said you were stupid. I challenged you. That is what debates and conversations are about. Lastly, I say its a racist comment because you assumed Benny collected Social Security. The only thing you knew about Benny was that he is in his 50s, didn't have an ID, and was black. So why bring up "collecting his SS check at all?" What's the purpose of that question?

People First  

Posted: October 21st, 2012 1:36 AM

Careful out there on that limb,Realitysux. Have you erased from your memory the tragic and corrupt saga of George Ryan? He can't come to the phone now but I'm sure others could tell you all about drivers licenses being sold to unqualified and dangerous drivers for his benefit. The fact is that party affliation is not the determining factor in matters involving official corruption. Greed rules. It is widespread across the state but given lip service instead of outrage from politicians and voters.


Posted: October 20th, 2012 11:48 PM

This example is more about incompetent gov't workers than voter suppression. Not sure how an incompetent/unhelpful unionized DMV employee equates to an indictment of Republicans. Chances are that the DMV worker was a democrat and you clearly point out their lack of interest in helping solve the problem. I also question the statement that Benny never really had the need for an ID. Does he not have a bank account or cash checks? Can you even sign up for gov't assistance without an ID or SS number?

People First  

Posted: October 20th, 2012 1:47 PM

"Leftist drivel" you say! Take a look at who are the biggest contributors to republican/tea party candidates across the country. The Koch brothers. One of the world's and our country's wealthiest families. And how was the fortune amassed that the boys inherited. Dear old dad was in business in 1930s with Joseph Stalin.

from OP from OP  

Posted: October 20th, 2012 11:54 AM

I particularly enjoy how Dylan keeps asking for "adult conversation", then systematically and dogmatically preaches from his pulpit about how everything everyone says is wrong and stupid....oh, and racist. Typical liberal, but we will forgive him since he clearly doesn't know any better. I'm only more convinced that ID should be required for voting and that apologists like you are actually dangerous to the communities they inhabit. Good day, Dylan.


Posted: October 18th, 2012 9:05 PM

OPRFdad, you brought up what I have brought up. If you are NOT okay with Obamacare's requirement to have health insurance, then its somewhat hypocritical to want folks to be required to have an ID (in many cases you would need to purchase one, therefore the Government would be requiring you to purchase something.) The difference here is that we have a Constitutional Right to vote, but we do not have a Constitutional right to health care.


Posted: October 18th, 2012 9:01 PM

OPRFdad, If you are going to require and ID then make the process easy and accessible. Period. Voting should be an easy process for all eligible voters, as its OUR RIGHT. Actually, I know many folks who were in fact victims of the poll tax, because they were required to purchase an ID. How about being required to show ID to pick up a prescription? You don't have to do that, you don't even have to be the person its prescribed to to pick it up!


Posted: October 18th, 2012 8:58 PM

from OP, Would you like to engage in an adult conversation? I agree fix THAT problem. But if the problem exists then in the mean time you cannot disenfranchise voters. It shouldn't have to be so hard to get an ID. "An ID should be required for all US citizens." Interesting statement. So I guess you have no problem with Obamacare requiring health insurance? Why should the government REQUIRE a US citizen to purchase an ID? not going to comment on the last Racist statement.


Posted: October 18th, 2012 8:55 PM

Nelson, This is the issue. Each state has its own laws. In Penn you can only absentee vote if you are out of state for legitimate reason, or you have a physical impairment that keeps you from traveling to the poll. She was not physically impaired. She did get eventually get to the DMV. She had to be drive. She had to wait over 2 hours to get an ID. It shouldn't be that difficult to cast your vote. This is why I call it voter suppression, because it makes it harder to vote!

Dad from OPRF not OPRF Dad Now Know as Mr. Middle  

Posted: October 18th, 2012 9:12 AM

Truly worthy and great work here Dylan. This is absolutely voter intimidation. I can't help but notice that you call for a removal of political horseplay in voting...but I digress. Why do we have the worst voting system in the world? France votes on a Sunday. Why not have a G issue IDs at your home if requested? Why do we vote for Judges? Why do we let the elected draw the maps so they can pick who they serve? Voting in USA should easier and include everyone!


Posted: October 18th, 2012 8:11 AM

Requiring somoen to provide an ID when voting isn't unreasonable. You have to do it for every other thing in this society. The poll tax and other specious arguments are just that. God forbid anyone at any time every be inconvenienced. Like someone said, we don't have to prove who we are to vote in this country, but we do have to prove we have health insurance lest we get hit with a fine. There's something pervesely wrong here.

from OP  

Posted: October 18th, 2012 5:45 AM

This is pure Leftist drivel. It only underlines the incompetence of the state and federal departments that we all have to deal with periodically. Fix THAT problem. An ID should be required for all US citizens. Period. Does Benny have any problem getting his social security check?

Nelson Taruc from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 11:54 PM

Dylan, to answer your first set of questions: No, no, yes, no and no. I'm curious to know if that 98-year-old woman ever got to the DMV, and how far away it was. And why didn't anyone suggest to her that she vote via an absentee or alternative ballot instead? No ID required. And let me be clear: I agree with you that the Pennsylvania law was a bad idea. It never should have become law, much less even put up for a vote.


Posted: October 17th, 2012 11:18 PM

Nelson, If you are honestly interested in this case, I would implore you to do more investigation. The State did not authorize more funding to address the increase traffic. They didn't hire new people, and didn't authorize funding in terms of training. Which was certainly necessary because its a rather complex system. Lastly, in terms of health insurance. My grandparents have Medicare and have no complaints. Why should we put trust in insurance companies that want to profit off us?


Posted: October 17th, 2012 11:14 PM

Nelson, Its anecdotal because I couldn't write a book for the Wednesday journal. Would you like to hear about the woman with MS? Or how about the student with autism? Or the 98 year old woman in a small rural town? for the woman in her 60's? Or the dozens of people I spoke with that had to pay for an ID, even though they should have received one for free?

Nelson Taruc from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 11:04 PM

Dylan's story about Benny is anecdotal, but I do agree that a voter ID law is more symbolism than substance. The bulk of voter fraud occurs with absentee ballots, where no ID is required. These laws will have no effect on that problem. That said, Dylan's story raises an interesting question: If government agencies are this incompetent when it comes to getting a simple ID, why the heck should we put trust in government agencies to get our health insurance?


Posted: October 17th, 2012 10:48 PM

Rick, Offend and make people feel sorry? mmm no. Your comments are disconnected, please try to explain what you are trying to say because I didn't get it. I think you are saying that you think folks are being registered and then others are voting with their name. State of Pennsylvania submitted in court testimony that there is no evidence of in-person voter fraud as you explain. You can't just make things up like that. In Person voter fraud just doesn't happen.

Rick from OP  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 9:37 PM

@Dylan - this is a bad article written to offend and make people in OP feel sorry. Well, it has not worked. Black man, or any man - lets see? In todays society, people are not what they used to be. There are folks looking to cheat. Admit to that. As to suppression, do you have proof. The real problem, many many are being signed up, and than given something in return for using their name. They know they will never vote. Then, without the ID - people can just WALK in and shill the vote.


Posted: October 17th, 2012 8:35 PM

Help us All, Also, it seems you are the one who is thinking about politics. Find the word "Republican" in the article. OH YEAH! You can't, because its not there. In terms of "most polls" I was actually admitting that in many polls majority of Americans support voter ID laws. Lastly, what does it matter i said he was a Black Man? Does that offend you? If I would have said White man you probably wouldn't have made that comment....


Posted: October 17th, 2012 8:32 PM

Help us all, Thats what it seems like you and others don't get. Benny and many other folks like him DON'T fly, they DON'T have bank accounts, etc. Benny has survived years without an ID, so ID is not required to live. Regardless a CONSERVATIVE judge saw that the State was not doing its job to make the process work for people.


Posted: October 17th, 2012 8:30 PM

Common Sense, It is Heartless because it seems you didn't even read the article. Benny did EVERYTHING they asked him to do, and they still couldn't get it right on multiple times. Again, you didn't read the article. The majority of the article is about how Benny had difficulties and how I assisted him. As said, he is just one story. Voter Suppression, enough said.

Common Sense  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 5:57 PM

Yeah, I know this is going to sound heartless, but I'm going to say it anyway. Do we really want people voting who aren't bright enough to get a state issued ID? Face it, this isn't voter suppression, but voter addition for the left as I don't think it is leap in logic to assume 90% of these people who somehow can't get an ID are going to vote for left leaning politicians. I'd find opposition against these laws more geniune if efforts were being made to actually get these people valid IDs.

Help Us All  

Posted: October 17th, 2012 6:25 AM

Voter suppression - what you described in this article is how it feels going in Any of the DMV offices here in Illinois. So do we have voter suppression here in Illinois? NO - what you described is the total lack of job skills of people working at those DMVs - a part of Government that touches most people in a consistent manner. So, lets not play politics with your "most polls, African American and Republican" So, is showing a photo id a deterent to fly, or how about to make a deposit?

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