Voter ID, Real ID might clash for some

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It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that many of the most zealous advocates of voter ID laws object to anything that remotely smells like a national ID card.

Voter ID laws are designed to harass and discourage old people, young people and minorities inclined to vote Democratic in states with Republican-dominated legislatures. National ID cards like the one approved under the Real ID Act of 2005 mandate another layer of federal regulation for state driver's licenses and personal identification cards.

By 2014, each state must issue driver's licenses and ID cards that meet minimum federal requirements to be compliant with the law. The new cards will contain tamper-proof information and, eventually, biometric technology.

All citizens, not just Democrats, would be hassled by the implementation of this law. The burden and expense of providing required documents just to apply for Real ID would be universal. If you want to catch a commercial flight, gain access to a nuclear facility or enter a federal building, Real ID cards will eventually be the only acceptable form of identification.

As you can imagine, a bipartisan coalition of political interests filed lawsuits to block Real ID. State legislatures passed laws blocking cooperation. Civil liberties organizations objected to it as an unwarranted invasion of privacy by the federal government that consolidates private information.

Libertarians and conservatives argued that the loss of liberty, the billions it will cost to implement it and the red tape required to comply with the law violated the principal of limited government; they joined groups like the ACLU and the NRA in challenging the legislation as an unconscionable overreach by the Congress.

Predictably, Christian conservatives sounded the alarm that the Antichrist himself was at the door with a high-tech "666" branding iron in the form of Real ID.

But it wasn't the Antichrist pushing for a national identity card -- it was President George W. Bush. The 43rd president was determined to keep Americans safe by preventing terrorists from easily entering the country and obtaining driver's licenses.

The logic was simple: Require onerous amounts of information from the rest of us that potential terrorists and illegal aliens would be unable (or unwilling) to provide.

The minimum documentation required just to apply for the new, improved national identity card and driver's licenses include: A photo ID or a non-photo ID with name and birth date ; documentation of birth date; documentation of legal status including Social Security number; proof of principal residence.

Once implemented, the Real ID card will have the following displayed on the front: photograph of the citizen; full name; signature; birth date; gender; unique identifying number; legal address. It also will contain discreet pieces of embedded information.

What could be more benign if it keeps us safe from experiencing a sequel to Sept. 11?

Sure, Real ID will have the (unintended?) effect of acting like a tracking device, but as long as you aren't a terrorist or an illegal alien, there isn't anything to worry about, is there?

That's why it came as a surprise to Mr. Bush and the data aggregators at Homeland Security that so many Americans across political creeds oppose "common sense remedies" like Real ID, even though it was designed to efficiently differentiate law-abiding citizens from terrorists. It is perceived as an affront to liberty that will do little, if anything to prevent terrorism.

Fast forward to the 50-odd days left before the 2012 presidential election. The coalition that opposed the implementation of Real ID has broken ranks over voter ID legislation. This time, it isn't the federal government moving in to prevent a terrible thing from happening. This time, the states under Republican stewardship have imposed rules designed to discourage people from turning out to vote Nov. 6.

When George W. Bush signed Real ID into law, at least he could point to an actual terrorist event to justify jettisoning huge chunks of American liberty. The proponents of voter ID laws are legislating against a theoretical problem. There is no in-person voter fraud crisis in America.

Republican legislators say they want to protect "the integrity of the vote" by eliminating every possibility of in-person voter fraud, even if it means depressing the already historically low American voter turnout.

You will get whiplash watching many pro-voter ID Republicans arguing against the implementation of Real ID as we get closer to 2014, when all states are supposed to be compliant.

Apples and oranges, you say? Oh, you will be amazed by how shamelessly anti-voter ID arguments about the burden imposed on citizens will be appropriated and adapted to fight against Real ID.

The rush of the hypocrisy will make your head spin.

tonynorman

Tony Norman: tnorman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1631. Twitter: @TonyNormanPG.


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