Saturday, September 23, 2006

National IDs and Voting

In the comments section of my last post, GlennT made a good point that deserves a little elaboration. I have a voter registration card. Most of you probably do, as well. Since only citizens are issued these cards, it seems that presenting one at the local voting precinct ensures that the person casting his vote is a citizen of the U.S., and not an illegal alien invested in influencing an election.

I think that identifying oneself at the polls is more important than many imagine. With an illegal alien population somewhere between eleven and thirty million--depending on whose statistics you accept--we're talking about the populace of a small country within our borders. A "nation within a nation." Clearly a group of people this size has the clout to alter an election's outcome, should its members become interested in voter fraud. So concern over the issue has legitimacy to anyone serious about not letting Manuel from Guadalajara decide who sits in the ovoid office.

Enter the national ID card issue. Many champion this "papers, please" policy, and use the voting situation as an excuse for its institution. I abhor it, and for obvious reasons. For one, if we embark upon such a policy, I suspect our government won't consider it elective. Everyone will be issued one, and being caught without it will entail punishment under the law. Worse, and in a more general sense, it places excess and unjustifiable power in the hands of government. I also question the validity of arguments in its favor, since so many constitutionally sound deterrents of illegal immigration aren't even attempted--such as enthusiastic border control, deportations, removal of welfare benefits from non-citizens, prosecution of employers willfully hiring illegals, etc. Even discussing a national ID card in this context denotes questionable motives on the part of its proponents.

The contrast between a national ID and voter ID becomes stark. If I show up at the polls without my voter registration card, the worst possible outcome is that I'm refused the opportunity to vote. On the other hand, in the event that a national ID card is written into law, a real possibility exists that appearing in public without it will mean fines or jail time. Or worse.

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