Like Clockwork: Fear-Mongers Over Voter ID Ahead of Ohio, N.C., and Florida Primaries

March 14th, 2016 4:48 PM

Watch it happen like clockwork twice this year. Adjusting the clock for daylight savings? No. MSNBC's fear-mongering about voter ID laws, happening now in front of the North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio primaries and surely to repeat later this fall in front of the general election in those states.

Here's how reporter Zachary Roth opened his March 14 article, "North Carolina braces for strict voter ID law ahead of Tuesday primary" (emphases mine): 

A strict voter ID law will be in effect for the first time in Tuesday’s primary in North Carolina, where an estimated 218,000 registered voters don’t have the identification they’ll need to vote. Two other presidential battleground states, Florida and Ohio, also vote Tuesday and have restrictions in place.

There have already been voting problems in North Carolina, especially in student-heavy areas, according to reports. Student IDs aren’t accepted under the law, and neither are out-of-state driver’s licenses. One senior at UNC Chapel-Hill who voted in the 2012 presidential election said he showed his Pennsylvania license and was forced to cast a provisional ballot, which may not be counted. His was one of numerous anecdotes to emerge in recent days of North Carolinians prevented from voting.

In the state’s early voting period, 2,567 people have had to cast provisional ballots—865 because they didn’t bring one of the types of ID allowed under the law, according to a report by The Nation. They’ll need to return in the next week to make their vote count. A group of 391 people said they had a reasonable impediment that prevented them from getting an ID. (Of course, these figures don’t include the unknown number of voters who were deterred even from showing up thanks to the ID requirement.)

Wait, why should an out-of-state license count as proper ID to vote in another state? After all, an out-of-state license typically bears the address of the license-holder as being, well, out-of-state, namely in the state wherein the license itself is issued. Simply put, it would NOT match up with the voter's address as listed on voter registration rolls.

The restriction passes the common-sense test, but is baffling to the folks at MSNBC.

What's more, student IDs do not make sense for ID purposes for a few basic reasons. One is they lack a permanent address which could be matched up with the address of the voter that's in the voter file. Another is that out-of-state and foreign students carry student IDs which do not have identifying information noting that they are out-of-state or foreign students. 

So, for example, a North Carolina voter who attends UNC Chapel Hill, an Arizona voter who attends UNC, and an international student from France attending UNC would all carry the same student ID which lacks the relevant identifying information to establish ID for voting.

What's more, at least at UNC – although I doubt it's much different at most other colleges and universities in the Tar Heel State – you actually NEED to show a valid government-issued ID to event obtain your student ID card in the first place:

All patrons applying for a UNC One Card must provide our office with an official type of photo ID such as a license, State ID, military ID, or a passport.

So the idea that your average college student will a) possess a student ID card but b) lack a valid government-issued ID card is rather preposterous. 

What's more, in North Carolina, the cost of state-issued ID card is pretty affordable: $13. On top of that, "[t]here is no fee for a Voter ID card, or if a customer qualifies for another no-fee ID."

Roth went on to grouse about how bad things are in the state of Ohio, what with "Republican cuts to early voting [which] have reduced the number of hours during which voters can go to the polls."

Never mind that Ohio has among the longest early-voting periods of any state in the nation and that, on top of that, ANY Ohio registered voter may choose to vote by absentee ballot, filed either in person at the county board of election or via U.S. mail. By contrast, the reliably blue states of Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey,Oregon, and Rhode Island have no in-person early voting.