As part of a broader voter-suppression campaign, Republican policymakers in many states now require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast an election ballot. This step, ostensibly intended to combat voter fraud that doesn’t exist, is a hurdle that’s never been necessary before, and which studies show disproportionately affect Democratic constituencies. There’s ample evidence of registered voters already being blocked from voting because of these measures.
But as my msnbc colleague Zack Roth reports, “For Republicans, requiring photo ID isn’t just for voting anymore.” It’s now being applied to recipients of government benefits.
North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature – which last year passed a voter ID requirement as part of the nation’s most restrictive voting law – advanced a bill Thursday that would make recipients of jobless benefits also show a photo ID. It’s expected to pass next week. […]Other Republican-led states are even moving to require photo ID to buy food. Starting in July, welfare and food stamp recipients in Maine will have to show photo ID, under a program pushed by far-right Republican governor Paul LePage. He said transactions records show food stamp cards were used thousands of times at strip clubs, smoke shops, and bars, which isn’t allowed. Georgia recently passed a similar requirement for food stamp recipients.
Given all of these efforts, one might assume that fraud is rampant and that ID requirements would save money while preventing illegal schemes.
Except, that’s not quite right.
As Zack’s report made clear, fraud does exist when it comes to the distribution of government benefits, but most of the wrongdoing is the result of “concealed-earnings fraud,” which refers to people who have financial resources they mask in order to remain eligible for benefits, cheating the system.
How would forcing these people to show ID prevent this fraud? It wouldn’t.
For that matter, because food-stamp benefits are distributed by way of Electronic Benefits Transfer cards through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, ID requirements wouldn’t reduce fraud here, either.
So what’s the point? Proponents will have to answer these questions themselves, though Zack’s report added a key detail: ”Studies suggest around 11% of Americans – including one in four African-Americans – don’t have a photo ID. Among those who receive government benefits, that number is almost certainly higher.”