- - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Party conventions, first of the Republicans in Cleveland and this week of the Democrats in Philadelphia, first and foremost are about whose name goes on the top of the ballot. Before any votes are cast on Nov. 8, though, questions must be settled about identification rules determining who gets to cast a ballot. Voter identification laws, popularly called ID laws, have proliferated. Proponents say they prevent voter fraud. Opponents argue that the laws prevent minority voters from casting a ballot. Judges have been overturning them. In an age when hackers halfway around the world steal millions of identification records in the blink of an eye, the idea that no one should have to show who he says he is so he can vote, is silly.

Texas lost its fight for secure balloting this month when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that requiring the Texas voter to show identification with a photograph places an unconstitutional burden on black and Latino voters. The 2011 law mandated that voters present one of seven state-issued forms of such photographic identification. Initially ruled in violation of the Voting Rights Act, the law remained in effect during the 2014 election, and then the question was presented to the appeals court. The court urged the state to craft a more minority-friendly remedy before the November election. Similarly, a federal court on July 19 struck down Wisconsin’s 2011 photographic ID law, ruling that citizens may vote without an ID if they sign an affidavit stating a valid reason for not obtaining one.

North Carolina anticipates a landmark ruling on its voter ID law before Election Day. The legislature enacted a law in 2013 that requires voters to show a state-issued ID, passport or military ID card to vote. The legislation scaled back early voting and eliminated same-day registration. A challenge argued that the new rules placed an undue burden on minorities, but the law was ruled constitutional in April. An appeal is scheduled for hearing on Sept. 26.

In contrast, the Virginia Supreme Court on July 22 overturned Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s executive order restoring voting rights to 200,000 ex-felons, saying that the governor had effectively rewritten a portion of the state constitution. Given Mr. McAuliffe’s past job as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Republicans suspected the governor’s order was meant to assure more Democrats to vote for his friend Hillary Clinton.

Though minority organizations say voter ID laws are a way to suppress voter turnout, the idea is to assure clean elections: A June 2015 Rasmussen poll found that 76 percent of respondents favor the ID laws. There will always be a few people with a legitimate reason for failing to obtain an acceptable form of ID, but their numbers hardly rise to the level of systemic discrimination. Surveys of voter turnout by the Government Accountability Office, looking for evidence of minority voter suppression, are inconclusive. There’s little question, however, that loose voter registration leaves the system subject to voter fraud. A Pew Research Center study in 2012 found that more than 1.8 million dead people remained on voter rolls nationwide, with more than 3 million voters registered simultaneously in more than one state.

When six-year-olds need a government-issued ID to play Pop Warner football, it’s not asking too much for their parents to have one when they choose the nation’s leaders. Indeed, to argue that black and Hispanic voters are not capable of meeting the standard required of white folks is more than a little patronizing, if not outright racist. Besides, there’s no surer way to discourage voters from showing up on Election Day than to allow ineligible folks to outvote them.

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