February 21, 2006
Taking elections seriously. (A sober reassessment.)
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell believes that requiring voters to show ID at the polls constitutes "disenfranchisement":
With the National Constitution Center as his backdrop, Gov. Rendell used Presidents' Day to announce his veto of a bill that would require all voters to show identification whenever they go to the polls.As it happens, the bill Rendell vetoed was itself a watered down version of an earlier bill which would have required photo ID, and blocked felons from voting:
Democratic opponents in the General Assembly charged that the bill would prevent thousands from voting, particularly minorities, seniors, and low-income residents, by requiring identification and restricting polling places. The original bill would have prohibited felons on probation or parole from voting and would have said that only photo IDs were acceptable. Those provisions were scrapped in a compromise move to ensure the bill's passage.I'm not much of an ID freak (I vehemently oppose any national ID system), but I think it's fair to point out that in the crazy world we live in, some activities are taken more seriously than others. The more serious the activity, why, the more likely they're going to require ID.
Take cigarette smoking, for example. It's infinitely more serious than voting. Not only are photo IDs required, Pennsylvania makes a fetish out of it, even spelling out the steps that stores must take in order to show compliance with the law:
a requirement that an employee ask an individual who appears to be 25 years of age or younger for a valid photo identification as proof of age prior to making a sale of tobacco products; a list of all types of acceptable photo identification; a list of factors to be examined in the photo identification, including photo likeness, birth date, expiration date, bumps, tears or other damage and signature; a requirement that if the photo identification is missing anything, it is not valid and cannot be accepted as proof of age for the sale of tobacco products (a second photo identification may be required to make the sale of tobacco products with questions referred to the manager); and a disciplinary policy which includes employee counseling and suspension for failure to require valid photo identification and dismissal for repeat improper sales.There's more, but it's boring unless you run a store.
Another activity Governor Rendell takes much more seriously than voting is the sale of wine on the Internet:
Gov. Rendell is opposing direct shipments of wine to Pennsylvania residents, a move sure to disappoint wine aficionados and many of the state's 100-plus wineries.One of the arguments used in support of Pennsylvania's antediluvian "State Store" system, of course, is that employees of the state bureaucracy do a better job of ID checking:
"If you want to have a control system and really do believe you do a superior job of at-the-counter surveillance of underage drinking and also collect every nickel of tax on every bottle, direct shipping knocks the hell out of all of that..."The State Store employees' union has almost singlehandedly blocked every effort at privatizing liquor sales in Pennsylvania (and don't get me started on the "beer distributor" nonsense, which requires buyers of beer to buy by the case at specially licensed outlets...)
But I recognize the reality of the situation. No one who has a government job wants to lose it. Nor do we want to lose people whose valuable skills as ID checkers have been demonstrated. So I propose that Pennsylvania put the employees of the State Store system to work at the polls, doing what they do best. Better yet, close the liquor stores on Election Day, so no one will grumble about lost wages.
One second thought, that might be too harsh. It's unfair to punish drinkers just because there's an election, so, as a compromise measure, why not allow only people who have actually voted to buy liquor? We'd already have the state store employees on duty at the polls, so it would be easy to supply them with special State Store "I VOTED SO I CAN DRINK!" tickets to hand out.
We've all heard of the "Motor Voter" laws; why not a "Voter Drinker" law?
You don't vote, you don't drink!
Hell, I think this might dramatically increase voter participation -- something we all want, right?
Isn't that just the opposite of disenfranchisement?
posted by Eric on 02.21.06 at 07:43 AM
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