The Edmond Sun


October 10, 2012

Getting the runaround to the polling place

WIRE — A judge in Pennsylvania last week put a hold on the state’s new voter ID law. Citizens will not be required to produce government-issued photo identification in order to have their vote count on Nov. 6.

That must be a disappointment to the Republican state legislative leader who had exulted upon the law’s passage that “this is gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”

And, in fact, polls showed that a majority of voters in the Keystone State generally support the notion of producing a photo ID at the polls.

But I was in Pennsylvania just a week ago, and found a much different sentiment in my small focus group — that being my mom and her pals in her senior residence.

Particularly aggrieved, with good reason, was my mother’s neighbor, Mary Edith Knox.

Her task was to renew her non-driver’s ID. So she phoned the proper state office and inquired as to how to do that. She was told to report to the commonwealth auto tag office near her residence.

Knox’s daughter-in-law took time off work to drive her there. Knox filled out an application, and then was instructed to report to the driver’s license bureau in another town, about 20 miles away, to get her photo taken.

Brilliant. Here is a lady in her 80s who doesn’t drive, and the state makes her travel to two locations to obtain an ID card to be able to vote.

Between the two offices, Knox paid $29.

After a little investigating, we deduced Knox was wrongly directed to the auto tag office. Also, if she had known how to go about it, she should have been able to obtain the non-driver’s license free of charge. But how would she have known? The worker I talked to sounded confused herself.

If a state is going to place requirements on voting, it had darned well better make it easy and convenient for people to meet those requirements. Why not a mobile van to make the rounds of senior housing and get people fixed up with ID cards on the spot?

Then again, why require photo ID at all?

Instances of people voting under false identities are minuscule. One study found 10 cases since 2000. Another found fewer than one case of fraud per state per year, and that included offenses such as using the wrong address.

Perhaps so, proponents say. But we need a photo ID to purchase liquor. We need one to cash a check and to fly. Why shouldn’t we demand one for voting?

Well, you can find someone else to buy you a six-pack. You can endorse a check and have a friend cash it for you. If you really have to get somewhere, you can find a way.

But there’s no way to make your vote count except by voting. And only you can cast your ballot.

By requiring people to navigate layers of bureaucracy to obtain documents, states are impeding a basic right of citizenship.

In Missouri, we have a Republican candidate for secretary of state who is basing much of his campaign on a pledge to making voting more difficult. Kansas already has one of the nation’s most draconian voter ID laws, the full effect of which won’t be seen until next year.

States don’t have enough money to run their schools or care for developmentally disabled citizens. Yet they’re keen to pass voter ID laws, which will require a huge investment of staff time, equipment upgrades and other expenses if they’re to work at all. No wonder courts in many states are putting holds on these laws or striking them down.

I believe the underlying rationale for voter ID laws is to discourage voting in immigrant and minority communities. But in their rush to do so, lawmakers are hurting America’s most revered demographic, its seniors.

“I am being charged $29 for the right to vote,” Knox said. She describes herself as a political junkie, who hasn’t missed an election in decades.

“The basic idea of having photo ID is sound, but it’s not workable,” Knox said.

Or necessary, I would add.

BARBARA SHELLY is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or by email at This column was distributed by MCT Information Services.

Text Only
  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • RedBlueAmerica: What should the U.S. do about illegal immigrant children?

    The crisis along the southern U.S. border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all.
    President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in borrowed money from taxpayers to cover the growing “care, feeding and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups” when our own veterans are not taken care of. Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the president’s plan, saying more money should go toward securing the border.

    July 17, 2014

  • VA scandal highlights the need to change Pentagon spending priorities

    The ongoing Department of Veterans Affairs scandal raises an important question: When our veterans are being denied access to basic health care, why is the Pentagon squandering billions of dollars on programs that do not benefit our military forces? Is there a link in organization attitudes?

    July 16, 2014

  • For better politics, it’s time for some raging moderates

    Like more than 20 percent of my fellow Californians, I am now classified as a no-party-preference voter, registered to vote but with no affiliation to any of the state’s political parties.
    I am for lower taxes and for marriage equality. I am tough on crime and I am anti-abortion. I believe that a pathway to citizenship is a necessary part of immigration reform and that student test scores should be a critical component of teacher evaluations.

    July 15, 2014

  • Father on mission to stop gun violence

    Since his son died six weeks ago as collateral damage to a troubled young man’s wish for vengeance, Richard Martinez has been asked whom he holds responsible.
    “I’m responsible,” the California lawyer answers, referring to most Americans’ failure to push harder to change gun laws after earlier mass shootings. “All those kids died and none of us did anything.”

    July 14, 2014

  • The Kansas City Star: Obama must end the public information barriers

    Mr. President, you have a public information problem. Again. Several months ago, journalism organizations complained about a lack of access for news photographers to pertinent presidential events.

    July 14, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
     View Results