When voting-rights advocates complain about voter-ID laws as an unnecessary suppression policy, the right generally responds with rhetoric that might seem sensible: “everyone” already carries identification, so these laws are no big deal and the left’s concerns are exaggerated.
Evidence to the contrary is fairly common, and once in a while, even amusing.
Asa Hutchinson, who won the Republican nomination in the race for Arkansas governor Tuesday, forgot his ID when he went to the polls, despite backing the state’s new voter ID law, according to the Associated Press.Christian Olson, a spokesman for the Republican candidate, told the AP that Hutchinson believed the situation was a “little bit of an inconvenience” and that a staffer retrieved his ID so he could cast a ballot. Olson said the former congressman still believes voters should be required to show an ID.
The larger takeaway from this should be obvious.
As the Arkansas Times’ Max Brantley explained, “Such an episode is an all-too-human reminder of how the law can be an impediment to the franchise. Hutchinson is a successful lawyer with an entourage and the day off to politic. He was going to get a ballot cast yesterday. The hourly factory worker trying to cast a ballot in the midst of a long commute to work who left his license back at the house? He might have a harder time setting things right. Never mind those who don’t have a valid ID at all and no ready means to get to the county clerk’s office to get one.”
Indeed, in this case, the gubernatorial candidate – the one who supports blocking voters from participating in their own democracy unless they show identification they never had to produce before in order to cast a ballot – dispatched an aide to go back to his law office to fetch his ID.
Ask yourself: how many voters usually go to their local precinct with paid staffers in tow?
What’s more, as Republicans impose new voter-ID requirements in states nationwide, all to address a fraud problem that doesn’t exist in reality, problems become more common.
In North Carolina recently, the new voting restrictions caused quite a bit of confusion. Not long beforehand, Texas’ state attorney general was temporarily disenfranchised by his own voter-ID law.
We’ve seen a judge nearly blocked from voting because the name on her ID didn’t match closely enough with the name on the voting rolls, and we’ve seen a former U.S. Speaker of the House get turned down for a voter ID.
None of this is necessary. Voter-ID laws, which have struggled recently in the courts, are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, and creating new problems that didn’t used to exist.
In Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson was able to finally vote after one of his employees gave him a hand, and he went on to easily win his gubernatorial primary. But the fact that he was delayed from casting a ballot should have given him new insights into what might happen to others – most of whom don’t cast ballots while surrounded by aides.