Voter ID: Throwback to Bad Old Days?
First there were poll taxes, then literacy tests, and now we propose requiring voters to present a photo identification.
If one element in the land has its way, the right to vote may change to the privilege to vote. The privilege will then go to people who vote the "right" way.
The days of the brutally segregated South are long gone, we like to believe, but now the focus of intimidation is directed toward new targets, depending on where you live and the existing prejudice.
For generations, the powers-that-be have promoted the folklore that the citizenry should fully understand the workings of federal, state and local governments in order to enter the polling booth. Often that understanding was interpreted as the responsibility of people who owned property and had money, as well as people who could read and write and were proficient in the fields of history, economics and science.
In other words, the voter was supposed to be reasonably affluent and, more important, know how to vote the way our leaders preferred.
I never suffered from those problems. It helped that I was born Caucasian and after passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution assuring women the right to vote. When I first registered to vote, I owned no real estate and didn't even have a car. My income was the $50-a-week salary a nondaily newspaper paid me as news editor, reporter and gofer.
I could read and write, which was helpful, but I probably did not vote entirely the way the registrar envisioned.
No doubt, voter fraud does exist. Perpetrators have been detected and dealt with. But today I see little evidence of widespread fraud in North Carolina, certainly none in Moore County or in Scotland County, where I live. For one thing, we remain a largely rural state, and poll workers are hired from the community and usually know and recognize the voters in their precincts.
All too well I remember the tricks pulled by white poll workers who went to great pains to discourage black residents from voting. Intimidation was not necessarily subtle in those days.
Much later, objections were raised against union sympathizers working in the South's industrial plants. The same plant managers who objected to union campaigners were often the same people who vigorously encouraged plant employees to register and vote according to management's wishes, a tactic that in some cases has since backfired.
Even today you occasionally run across elderly black men and women who are reluctant to vote because memories of intimidation at the polls in their youth are still all too vivid. These individuals may well be retired and no longer subject to the people for whom they worked for many years, but the memories are too sharp to be forgotten.
Yet these folks have knowledge and opinions of what they like in government. Ask them questions about candidates and elections, and you'll find them just as knowledgeable as many of your own relatives, friends and co-workers. They may be knowledgeable, but not necessarily in possession of a driver's license. A special ID card would be needed.
On the other hand, I've been appalled at the reaction of some people whom I considered to be well-educated, but who could not distinguish between the United States Congress and the North Carolina legislature. I could cite other examples but don't want to embarrass some very nice friends.
Requiring photo ID in order to vote would be expensive, cumbersome and unnecessary. It's just another tactic to discourage voters regarded as -undesirable by one segment of the -population.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at -email@example.com.
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