This is in response to the March 6 letter. As a member of Buffalo’s local chapter of the League of Women Voters, I can say with some authority that no one disputes that every person who comes to a polling place to cast a ballot needs proper ID.
We all want to ensure that the people voting are actually who they say they are. The problem arises when defining precisely what the word “proper” means. Is it a driver’s license containing a photograph of the carrier?
This sounds reasonable until one realizes that not everyone has such a thing; such as a person who, because of some disability, can’t drive. So then what about using a birth certificate instead?
This also seems to be a good idea until one looks at, for example, African Americans who were born in southern states before the early 1960s.
Very often, especially in rural areas, because this group of individuals weren’t born in hospitals either their births weren’t recorded at all or if they were, because the local midwife often went to the county seat infrequently, the date of birth on the certificate is when it was finally registered instead of when it actually took place. Consequently, this makes the information on the certificate invalid, which makes it useless as proof of identity.
Therefore, because of these and other weaknesses, the continued use of identification that is not universal and/or valid has created natural cracks in the system. These cracks (and many other things, such as closing local polling places in certain areas to make it more difficult and time consuming to cast a ballot) have been exploited by many in charge of local elections to purposefully exclude populations that have historically voted against them.
This is why the League and many other national organizations are fighting these discriminatory ID laws,
because we don’t want to require those voting to have some universally recognized form of identification.
Mary Ellen McGowan