Voter ID laws are one of the most controversial topics in America today.
As of 2016, 33 states had some kind of voter ID law. Here is the breakdown, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Strict photo ID required: Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Strict non-photo ID required: Arizona and Ohio.
Non-Strict photo ID required: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas.
Non-Strict non-photo ID required: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington.
No ID required to vote at ballot box: California, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C.
Opponents of voter ID laws generally oppose them for two reasons. First, they say such laws are unnecessary because voter fraud “never” happens. Second, they argue that voter ID laws are racist.
While President Trump’s claims that millions of illegal voters cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election are probably inaccurate, evidence shows that voter fraud still occurs regularly. So taking prudent steps to curb instances of illegal voting and ensure electoral integrity might make sense—assuming such policies are not in fact racist, as critics claim.
Many people (including myself) are puzzled by the suggestion that asking someone to show identification is racist. Asking someone to flash ID is a non-invasive request, something people are accustomed to doing to check-out a library book, rent a movie, or buy a beer. And as shown above, voter ID laws were passed in progressive states such as Washington, Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut. They are also extremely popular.
But the best argument I’ve seen against the notion that voter ID is racist came recently from Mark Lutchman, a 24-year-old author and national guardsman who goes by the name The Colored Conservative on Facebook.
In a tweet that went viral, Lutchman stated that the idea that blacks don’t carry IDs is itself a bigoted view.
“The idea that voter ID laws are a way to suppress blacks from voting is not only preposterous but totally racist,” he wrote. “I don’t know a single black person without an ID. Democrats are treating us like vagrants. See through the BS.”
I think Lutchman’s tweet went viral—it was retweeted 6,600 times; he only he has 10,600 Twitter followers—because there is truth in this claim. It reminded me of something a friend, who is a minority, recently told me about progressives.
“They don’t look at us individuals,” he said. “They look at us as statistics.”
There is something troubling and paternalistic in a view that suggests black people are somehow less than capable of obtaining an ID to cast a ballot. Sadly, as the political commentator Candace Owen recently observed, this has been the prevailing treatment toward African Americans in recent generations.
“The bigotry of low expectations has been seeded into the [consciousness] of blacks,” she tweeted. “Over the last decade, blacks have become mentally weak—the weakest we have ever been at any point in our history. Black power has transformed into Black submission.”
America doesn’t need voters. It needs citizens. But will we get capable and self-sufficient citizens if we continue to treat people not as individuals but statistics?
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.