paul’s words

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Who Are You?

The web page of the Salt Lake County Clerk declares that Utah law now requires a person to present identification before being allowed to vote. See it at: Sufficient is a form of identification with name and photograph (like a driver license or a state-issued card for those who do not drive).

If you have no “satisfactory” photo-identity card, there’s a list of substitutes, any two of which suffice - including a certified birth certificate, Social Security card, Medicare card, certified naturalization document, or certified court record of name change.

Another possible substitute is an official-looking piece of mail showing an address in the voting precinct: a bank statement or a utility bill, for example.

But is the bearer the person who received the bill or bank statement?

Not one of the substitutes connects the person presenting the document to the name on the document and none connects the person to the voting precinct.

I have lived and voted in Utah for 45 years, but my birth certificate was issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (where I was born) - no connection to Utah. Neither a Social Security card nor a Medicare card has any address (after all, they are valid throughout the United States). And neither my financial institution statement nor my Questar bill shows that I am the person who received the piece of mail.

A “birth certificate”, after all, is a certified copy of a public record of a birth, showing that a person of a certain name was born on a certain date at a certain place, child of a certain woman and (usually named) a certain man. But the document does not connect the person who has the certificate in hand to the person born on that day.

I could obtain a birth certificate for my brother and “prove” that I am he: I know who were his mother and his father; I know when and where he was born (including the actual hospital). That’s all the department of vital statistics requires, plus a few dollars, to issue to me a certified copy of the record of the birth. (Oh, they may want to know why I want the copy - but that’s easy: I lost the copy I had.)

What connects me to my birth certificate? or my Social Security card? or my Questar bill?

About 68% of eligible Utah voters voted in the ’08 elections - a “high turnout”. When so many who can vote don’t, why deny the power to many who want to vote?

“Fraud”? The number of actual fraud cases is smaller than the margins by which winners win and losers lose.

Only a photo ID would identify you. (Ask, however: how does the issuer establish identity?) If we require ID to vote, why not provide a photo card at no charge? A charge is not different from a poll tax (except that that’s unconstitutional)!

Why do we go through this pretense of identification? Whose ego is boosted? What power is gained?

And who is turned away? Which “undesirables” are excluded?

W. Paul Wharton