You Don’t Need Identification To Vote?

I recently found myself travelling alone on a fourteen-hour flight from Washington, DC to Tokyo.  I was seated next to another solo traveler, an Egyptian citizen who currently resides in northern Virginia.  (Marwan just joined Twitter, so please engage him there if you have any questions about the topic of conversation below.)  While talking about our children, he mentioned how wonderful he thought it was that his young son was being encouraged to vote at school (the specific example he mentioned was what type of decorations to use in the classroom), creating in the US what he felt was a “culture of voting.”  Marwan himself had made it a point to always vote in Egypt, “even when Mubarak was the only choice”, and discussed voting (at the Egyptian embassy) in the recent parliamentary elections as well as the upcoming presidential election.

At this point I could not resist the following line of questioning (paraphrased, of course, as I was not recording our friendly conversation):

Debbie:  Do all citizens have the right to vote in Egypt?

Marwan:  Yes.

D:  Are there non-citizen residents living in Egypt, like you currently live in Virginia?

M:  Yes, but not as many as in the US.

D:  So when it is time to vote, how do they know that only Egyptian citizens are voting?

M:  What do you mean?

D:  What would prevent someone living in Egypt who is not an Egyptian citizen from voting?

M:  Oh, we have to show our national identification cards.

D:  Did you know that in the US you do not have to show identification to vote?

M:  Really?

D:  Really.  (Below is a video from James O’Keefe and Project Veritas demonstrating that identification is not required when voting in Vermont.)


M:  Why not?

D:  Some people consider requiring identification to be racist.

M:  What?

D:  I’m sorry, I can’t explain it very well because almost everyone in Egypt is, well, Egyptian.  You come from a mostly homogenous society, so I realize the concept of an identification card being a form of racism doesn’t make much sense to you.  The basic argument, at least as far as I understand it, is this:  non-whites are more likely to be unable to afford identification, and therefore if identification is required to vote, then requiring identification to vote favors whites.  This argument is used even if identification is free, because there is an investment in time and transportation that, so the argument goes, still favors whites over non-whites when it comes to obtaining identification.

M:  Wow.

D:  Yeah.

It was very interesting to talk to someone about voter identification from such a unique perspective.  Please do not think I am advocating a US identification card.  The states are perfectly capable of providing identification for their respective citizens.  And (please don’t take offense Marwan) I’m certainly not holding Egypt up as an example of all things good in the world, I’m simply presenting the view on this issue of someone who takes their right to vote, albeit in another country, very seriously.


One thought on “You Don’t Need Identification To Vote?

  1. Well, you must show some sort of ID to be able to register to vote (at least in Virginia). Granted, not a national ID card, or even a local ID card… just something with your name and address on it (of an approved form). Less than it takes to get a drivers license post 9-11. About the same amount of ID as to get a Fairfax County Public Library card. At least for your FCPL card you have to actually and physically show the librarian the information to get the card… but there is no verification that you are a U.S. citizen for either… just that you _reside_ in the locality.

    And if you’ve got that address information memorized for when you go to vote, you don’t need to have any ID then. But you must be able to state your full name and address when they find you in the roll for your voting place. If you can’t, they will still allow you to vote but only as a – what’s the phrase? – provisional vote? until you can be verified.

    Here’s an interesting turn on the unseen time and money costs to get an ID card that not too many think of. The process of voting in national elections itself is biased against lower income voters whereas local elections are not. In local elections, the demand for voting is very low. As an aside, this is interesting because in local elections your vote actually has more impact than it does in national elections (where the voting pool is dramatically larger). Anyway, with low demand to vote in local elections, the voter can get through the line to vote in very little time. The last time I voted (I missed the VA Republican Primary) I walked up to the poll worker, stated my name and address and voted, in and out in less than 5 minutes. National elections experience higher voter demand; in the 2008 Presidential election I had to wait nearly 90 minutes to be able to vote.

    So, even ignoring the difficulty in scheduling your vote with your job requirements (since all employers are _supposed_ to allow you time to vote), national elections are therefore biased against those who can not flex their schedules to allow them to vote. Those who can flex their schedules tend to be in higher income jobs. So, national elections are biased against low income people. By the logic of those who are against national ID cards, these low income people tend to be non-white (see your explanation to Marwan above).

    And, using the terminology so in vogue, thus are national elections racist.

    Ahhhhh…. politics!

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