A federal court recently struck down the new Texas voter ID law, much to the delight of liberals. Liberals claim that asking voters to show some form of identification before casting their ballots is an unwarranted infringement on their rights, and that doing so discriminates against the poor. Conservatives counter that by opposing voter ID laws liberals are just trying to make it easier for unregistered voters, illegal immigrants, and dead people to vote—a campaign strategy long favored by Chicago Democrats and used with alacrity by LBJ.
While jotting down notes for this article, I was sitting at the take-out station of a local restaurant waiting to pick up my lunch. The man ahead of me used a credit card to pay for his meal, but first he was asked to show a picture ID. By the way, this man is well known to the restaurant owner and to the waiter who checked his ID. Nevertheless, he cheerfully complied, even asking the waiter about the health of his mother and how he—the waiter—was doing at the local community college.
This chance encounter at a restaurant got me thinking about all the times Americans have to show some form of ID as part of everyday transactions, transactions that are typically much less important than voting. I summarize some of those “ID moments” in this article and invite readers of this column to respond by adding their own ID moments to the list. The plan is to compile a comprehensive list that can be handed to liberals who oppose voter ID. Having done so, conservatives can then ask the obvious question: If Americans have to show IDs in these mundane situations, why not when they vote?
I was recently in my state’s capital for a meeting. Once the meeting concluded, I stopped by a well-known fitness center for a workout. The visitor’s pass cost me $15, which I paid in cash. As I walked toward the locker room, the cashier yelled after me: “Sir, I will need to see a picture ID.” I had to go back out to my car to retrieve my driver’s license, which he held onto until I finished the work out and was ready to leave. Perhaps he thought I would walk off with a barbell.
I stopped by my bank recently to cash a check. I have banked with this institution for almost 40 years and am well known to its personnel. To cash my check, I was required to present a picture ID. My next stop on this day was a meeting at a local military base. To gain admittance to the base I had to show a driver’s license and one other form of ID from a list of “acceptable” types of ID. On the way home, I stopped at the post office to pick up a package. The previous day the postal carrier had left one of those little yellow slips notifying me that a package had arrived and was ready for pickup. The postal clerk who waited on me is a friend I have known for 36 years—he used to work for me. Still, I had to show a picture ID in order to retrieve my package. Recently in a drug store I watched as an elderly man had to show his driver’s license before being allowed to purchase Sudafed.
Try getting on an airline without an ID. The airlines are unforgiving on this matter. Produce a picture ID or you will not get on the plane—period. No excuses will be accepted. I do not drink or smoke, but I am told by reliable sources that purchasing alcohol or cigarettes without a picture ID is next to impossible, even for people who are obviously over the minimum age limit. Picking up a rental car, checking into a hotel room, purchasing a new cell phone, registering for a college course, requesting a college transcript, picking a young child up from school during the school day—all of these transactions require a picture ID. These are just a few examples I am familiar with. I am sure there are more. Now, consider the examples in this column and—with the exception of picking a child up from school—ask yourself this question: Which of these transactions is more important than voting? Then ask a liberal the same question.