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electionlineWeekly — April 24, 2014

Table of Contents

II. Our Say

Our Say is an occasional section giving elections officials, academics, policymakers or elections geeks a chance to have their say on election administration. If you’ve got an opinion about some element of election administration and would like to write about it, please email electionline.

Voter ID and minimum wage

By This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , registrar of voters
City of Falls Church, Va.

Voter ID and minimum wage laws have been in the news recently. Republicans are advocating for stricter voter ID laws and Democrats are advocating for higher minimum wage laws. Based on the logic behind both laws, how can these two groups be for one and not the other?

Voter ID laws are like minimum wage laws: Both laws seek to make society better off but also risk excluding people who can’t (or won’t) meet the necessary requirements.

In economic terms, these necessary requirements are considered a mandated “floor” in either income or identification. The benefit of such a floor increases the income of workers and the security of voters.

Minimum wage laws are designed to make workers who make the least amount of money better off financially. These laws are designed to tell employers that they can afford to give some more of their profits to low wage employees in order to give those employees a so-called living wage.

Voter ID laws are similar in that those voters with the correct forms of identification will remain in the electorate and their ID has made their vote more secure. These laws are designed to tell voters that identification is required for a wide array of services for the purpose of preventing fraud and abuse (however, many of those services are not constitutional rights like the right to vote, merely privileges like driving but that is a subject for a different article).

Detractors to the minimum wage laws, citing basic economics, say that these laws have the unintended consequence of removing some workers from the work force. Sure, it might make those workers who keep their jobs better off, but it makes those who don’t keep their jobs worse off.

The same logic can be applied to voter ID laws: Those voters who do not have the correct ID will now be removed from the electorate.  It does not matter how easy a voter ID is to get, the fact is that some voters will be unable or unwilling to get the necessary identification in order to vote. Either way, these former voters are no longer participating in the electorate just like those workers negatively affected by the minimum wage laws are no longer participating in the economy.

If losing workers based on minimum wage laws is bad for the economy then perhaps losing voters due to voter ID laws is bad for democracy.

On the other hand, if making workers more financially secure is better for the country then perhaps making voters more democratically secure is also better for the country.

Either way, my solution to the voter ID debate is to eliminate the debate all together. Vote by Mail.