- - Thursday, May 5, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Just who you are can be a mystery. A California lesbian couple is running for both queen and king of the high-school senior prom. Most people are satisfied with being themselves, and jealously guard their ID. It’s difficult to stand apart from the blur in a nation of 320 million, and the explosion of identity theft renders the question, “Who am I?” as more than simply rhetorical.

The right to one’s own identity was upheld this week when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that states may penalize illegal immigrants and others who purloin another person’s ID to obtain a job. The court agreed with Maricopa County, Arizona, that state law criminalizing identiy theft is constitutional so long as it applies to illegals and American citizens alike.

Illegal-immigration activists argued that the rule usurps federal authority to set immigration policy. Illegal immigrants seeking jobs have been hampered by a 2007 state law requiring employers to check applicants’ Social Security numbers through the federal E-Verify database. The court observed that American citizens have been prosecuted under the law, too.

A federal court in North Carolina upheld a state law this week requiring proof of identity to cast a vote. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled that the law — which bars same-day registration and voting and requires voters to present photographic identification — does not disenfranchise poor and minority voters. A provision of the law enables prospective voters without valid identification to cast a provisional ballot.

In his 485-page opinion, Judge Schroeder found that 96.5 percent of state registrants possess valid identification, including 97.4 percent of active voters. He concluded that plaintiffs, which included the North Carolina NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, “failed to show that such disparities will have materially adverse effects on the ability of minority voters to cast a ballot and effectively exercise the electoral franchise.”

Americans must be glad to be themselves while they can. Given the growing incidence of identity theft, the likelihood increases that someone will steal their personal data for criminal purposes. The Hill, a political newspaper of Capitol Hill, reported this week that hackers have stolen the data of hundreds of millions of American voters. The information can be sold to criminals who create fake identity cards. The use of such cards could alter election returns, not a reassuring prospect six months before Americans elect a new president.

Laws that make it a crime to use a stolen Social Security number, or require voters to show an ID protect against pretenders with nefarious purpose in mind. Every American has a right to be himself, and it’s a right worth defending.

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