Sarah Silverman explains voter ID laws and Jon Stewart explains Fox News


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

37 Responses

  1. There seems to be an important link to Ms. Silverman’s piece that is missing here. I am deeply offended by this, as Ms. Silverman is a national treasure. Your failure to link her in fact leaves me wondering why you hate America so much, Erik?Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I’ve been told for 2 years now that the reason we have a Republican House of Reps is that old people voted in November 2010 and hardly anyone else did.

    Now those old people are voting for Obama?Report

  3. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Honestly, I don’t have a problem with this. But I’m not a democratic fundamentalist. I don’t see voting as a sacrament or an individual right, but rather as a process for selecting a reasonably good government. And I think that process is corrupted by casual and low-information voters. A filter that raises the average information level of voters is a good thing, even if it’s imprecise enough that it excludes some high-information voters.

    Again, I’m not a democratic fundamentalist, and I don’t see voting as an individual right. As the effects of voting are almost entirely external, it really doesn’t make sense to treat it as an individual right. The important thing is that the process produces good government, not that everyone be given a vote.

    Ideally what I would like to see is a voting license based on a test of understanding of basic civics, history, economics, and statistics. That’s unconstitutional, though, and I do think that the requirement for a state-issued ID would be a net improvement. The poor tend to have lower intelligence and educational attainment, and those who won’t take the time to get IDs specifically for voting are unlikely to take the time to form educated opinions about the issues.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Do you have a problem with elitism? condescension?

      have any knowledge of intelligence testing?Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to greginak says:

        He clearly doesn’t have a problem with condescension.Report

      • Avatar BobbyC in reply to greginak says:

        Popular elections are really not a good way to form a govt … this has been understood for a long time, eg democracy having a bad name centuries ago. Aside from the feel-good-narrative of our education and culture around voting, the placebo that voting equals political power for individuals, there are not good reasons to want to live in a large country with popular elections. At least I’d rather see the United States be a collective of small semiautonomous states, say thousands, under a light federal arrangement (and give control over immigration back to the state, not federal level).

        Great post though – Sarah Silverman always goes for the jugular (eg yellow discharge, wow).Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to BobbyC says:

          BobbyC! Good to see you, man!Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to BobbyC says:

          democracy had a bad name centuries ago with all sorts of royalty that is for sure. I’ll go for some criticism of democracy but without the side order of ” those stupid poor people probably shouldn’t be voting anyway”Report

          • Avatar BobbyC in reply to greginak says:

            That’s fair, but we should be capable of disenfranchising stupid people without focusing on poor people. My operating analogy is how elite colleges admit students – there is a huge statistical advantage to rich people, but there has also been great progress over the past 50yrs from all birth and connections to something resembling a fair competition among 18yr olds (meaning it’s fair excluding what happened prior to applying, not all-told fair). I’d be interested in that tradeoff – a less open voting system, but one based on reasonably objective criteria (like knowing who the candidates are). Even better would be ending the two-party system and having representatives who were themselves informed and not party-controlled thinkers. Admittedly fanciful, but not wildly dissimilar from the original conception.Report

    • Can there be good government with a consistently disenfranchised underclass? As political scientist E. E. Schattschneider observed, “The flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with an upper class accent.” That is to say the US political system is presently weighted towards obedience to the upper classes. Witness, Citigroup seeks a merger with Travelers and those pesky bits of Glass–Steagall are cleared away in double-time. Or, banks need recapitalizing and within weeks trillions of dollars at their disposal on fairly favorable terms. In contrast, when the concerns of the poor and downtrodden make it onto the national agenda it is oftentimes through the gaze of the upper classes, for instance, the constantly recurring trope of dividing the poor into deserving and undeserving.

      Also, whom exactly should we empower to select which citizens are worthy or unworthy of the vote? Given the treacherous history of voting tests in the US, it strains credulity to expect disinterested psychometricians to decide. More likely the competing political parties use such tests, or licensure, as weapons against opponents’ voters; one could imagine an empathy test that, lo and behold, strikes conservatives and libertarians from the voter rolls. And one doesn’t encounter much difficulty in striking upon the tests that were used to disenfranchise vast swathes of the population in the South.

      Altogether, licenses to vote echoes Bertolt Brecht’s poem The Solution:

      After the uprising of the 17th June
      The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
      Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
      Stating that the people
      Had forfeited the confidence of the government
      And could win it back only
      By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
      In that case for the government
      To dissolve the people
      And elect another?


  4. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I’m a strong opponent of these new voter ID laws, because they are a solution chasing a non-existent problem. But Silverman makes me embarrassed for my own side of this debate. I guess you either like her style or you don’t; I never have.Report

  5. Avatar Lyle says:

    I would also note that those without ID are also unlikley to be called for Jury duty, since the lists tend now days to be made from driver licenses (if under the age for automatic exemption). Further of course due to the Patriot act they can’t open bank accounts. Of course if we issued photo ids for medicaid medicare and the various welfare programs then it would not be a problem. (Actually for Medicare and Medicaid might be a good fraud prevention tool)Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Lyle says:

      I am not particularly in favor of Voter ID laws in their own right, but I’d actually consider it a net gain for the country if they were to come with free and more freely available ways of getting photo identification.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will it would indeed be a net gain for the poor. If you Google “photo id and soup kitchen” you’ll find that photo ID’s are apparently required at ALL soup kitchens in the country. Now this could clearly be false since the soup kitchens that don’t require photo ID’s may not have even heard of the Internet. However, there is really no good excuse in this society for not having a photo ID period. You cannot partake of the goods and services this society has to offer if you don’t have photo ID, which pretty much guarantees that you’re going to be disenfranchised from a lot more than the right to vote including banking, healthcare and travel. I suppose if you’re really ugly or are a criminal operating under a false name a photo id might be a nuisance.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to wardsmith says:

          That’s interesting, Ward. Looking over at the list for the Bronx it seems that more of them than I would have expected require photo ID, though not all of them.

          I remember the homeless I was in contact with in the southwest. I remember what an obstacle the lack of identification was for them. They often lacked the bearings to be able to do what was required to get them. This is sort of where I get gooey liberal insofar as I think they should be getting help in that regard. If Voter ID is required for the political consensus to make that happen, I think the pros would outweigh the cons as far as that goes.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to wardsmith says:

          For me, it is less the notion of photo ID and more the particular way in which the current slate of laws are being implemented.

          Generally speaking, I struggle with the government itself requiring citizens or own or carry anything. I don’t even like that I have to wear pants and shoes. But, if they are going to require something, a photo ID is one of the better things. And, again speaking generally, requiring them for voting isn’t the worst idea in the world; when I voted in our last round of local elections, I was shocked that simply showing up and saying my name was enough to get a ballot.

          However, I object strenuously to the way in which these laws are being enacted. First and foremost, the timing of them is highly problematic. There should be an extended grade period to allow folks who might lack the ID an appropriate opportunity to acquire it. Along those same lines, offering easier mechanisms to acquire the ID should be a requisite for the passing of any such laws. And an appropriate plan for folks who can’t meet the expectations should be considered. Getting a photo ID, such as a driving license, often requires various other forms of IDs… Social Security cards, birth certificates, utility bills, etc. If you lack these, you need other things first just to acquire them, after which you can then seek the required form. It can be an arduous process, made even more difficult if you live far from an ID center, lack funds (most of this stuff ain’t free), have scheduling difficulties, or are just ideologically opposed to the ineptitude of the DMV. IF those proposing photo ID laws were able to adequately address ALL these concerns, I’d be much more likely to support them. But, as we’ve seen, many of these laws seemed explicitly designed to get particular candidates elected, which is a far greater problem for democracy than voter fraud.

          Going off on a slight tangent, what voting rights to the homeless have? My guess is many of these folks lack any form of ID. Are they considered “residents” of the states and municipalities that they occupy? Are they allowed to vote in those areas?Report

          • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Kazzy says:

            Quoting the Washington State site: The Washington Constitution doesn’t require a “residence” as a condition of voting as long as a person meets all other registration requirements. (Article VI Section1)

            Voters who lack a traditional residential address can register at the shelter, park, motor home, intersection or other identifiable location they consider their residence. This location will be used to determine which precinct they will vote in. (RCW 29A.08.112 effective 2005)

            Along with your residential address, you must also provide a valid mailing address. An accurate, valid mailing address is essential in order to receive ballots and election information on time. This can include a post office box, address of a friend or relative, shelter, or general delivery at a local post office.

            I like that you can register at your favorite intersection. If you saw my previous post where they were giving booze and rides to the polling station you see we have 3 of the 4 constituent items needed for an election. Informed voters? Not so much.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to wardsmith says:

              Thanks, Ward. If such laws are common to other states, this could have created an interesting option for OWS-like movements.

              “Hey man, my voter ID card says I live here!”Report

            • Avatar James h. in reply to wardsmith says:

              Once upon a time conservatives made much of the fact that in the Soviet Union citizens always had to carry their identity papers. This was evidence of their lack of freedom.

              I guess identity papers fir Americans are the real peace dividend.Report