Hardball Fill-in Host Smerconish Rehashes Smear That GOP Trying to Disenfranchise Voters with ID Laws

From time to time, MSNBC hosts like to do their part to further the meme that Republicans are out to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning constituencies such as blacks and the elderly by using voter ID laws as a back-door way to discourage voting by those groups.

Today Hardball fill-in host Michael Smerconish picked up the baton, interviewing Michael Waldman of the liberal Brennan Center for Justice about his group's claim that its new "comprehensive study" finds five million Americans will be effectively disenfranchised in 2012 thanks to new voter ID laws in numerous states.

For his part, Smerconish did play a bit of devil's advocate:

I know having had this conversation with my radio audience, many people say, "Well, wait a minute, I show a photo ID for every aspect of my life, why shouldn't I show some level of identification to go vote?"

In response, Waldman reiterated the talking point about how in Texas, a student ID doesn't suffice as identification to vote, but a concealed carry permit does:

The fact is I actually don't have a problem with voter ID, I have problems with requiring forms of ID that people don't have.... To give you a sense of the political nature of how precisely these laws seem to target certain voters, Gov. Perry in Texas just signed a law saying that you can no longer use your University of Texas ID to vote but you can use your gun license.

That's the kind of political gamesmanship that unfortunately is pervading this thing. Nobody wants fraud, all the eligible people should be able to vote, but my goodness, we ought to be able to come up with a way to require ID that people actually have.

College kids tend to vote liberal and Democratic while concealed carry permit holders are more likely to be conservative and Republican, ergo this is all political, Waldman is arguing.

Smerconish failed to challenge Waldman on the point, even though there is a substantial difference between a concealed carry license and a university ID: the former has the address of the licensee on the card, enabling polling precinct officials to check it against the voter rolls, the latter does not.

What's more, to even get a University of Texas, Austin ID card, you need to furnish, you guessed it, a government-issued ID card such as a (emphasis mine):

  • Driver's license from the United States or Canada
  • Valid learner's permit or temporary license (must include photograph) from the United States or Canada
  • U.S. Military ID
  • U.S. or foreign passport
  • Alien registration card with photo (INS form I-151 or I-551)
  • U.S. citizen ID card (INS form I-197)
  • Resident citizen card (INS form I-179)

You'll notice many of those documents are possessed by non-citizens who, of course, cannot legally vote in federal elections, which may be another reason why a university ID doesn't suffice to establish identity and eligibility to vote.

By contrast, to get a concealed carry license in Texas, you need to furnish the following forms of identification:

  • Social security number,
  • Valid driver license or identification card,
  • Current demographic, address, contact, and employment information,
  • Residential and employment information for the last five years (new users only),
  • Information regarding any psychiatric, drug, alcohol, or criminal history (new users only),
  • Valid email address, and
  • Valid credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express)

That sounds a lot more onerous to me, but I don't expect either Smerconish or Waldman are concerned about the Texans who are deprived unnecessarily of fully enjoying their 2nd Amendment rights thanks to a lack of government-issued ID or by virtue of not owning any credit cards.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters