Yesterday, I took part in a “Pancakes and Politics” discussion hosted by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. There were three of us on the panel–yours truly, Beth White (former Marion County Clerk) and Abdul Shabazz (local radio personality and commentator/provocateur).
Abdul has actually posted the whole thing, if you want to listen, you can click here.
The panel was focused on civic engagement–especially voting–and as one might expect, there were a number of explanations offered for Indiana’s continually abysmal turnout. (A pathetic 7% turned out for yesterday’s Indianapolis primary.) I’ll leave most of those for another day, but today I want to talk about a comment made by Beth White, because it really struck me.
Beth ticked off the numerous barriers that Indiana erects and noted that voting here is thus more difficult than it is elsewhere. Abdul disagreed. (Any election law expert will tell you Beth was right. Sorry, Abdul.) Her response was perfect: she pointed out that Indiana makes it easy to pay taxes, to get your auto license, and to do other things that policymakers want to encourage. It’s pretty clear– given the fact that our Voter ID law is the nation’s strictest, our polls are the first to close, we refuse to establish convenient voting centers or to allow vote-by-mail–that state government is not interested in encouraging people to vote.
Especially egregious is the refusal to allow the use of government-issued picture IDs to verify identity if those IDs don’t have an expiration date.
As Beth noted, it’s perfectly appropriate to ensure that voters are who they say they are–but that interest in preventing (virtually non-existent) voter fraud doesn’t require disallowing identification issued by government agencies that is widely accepted elsewhere. (According to the Secretary of State’s webpage, “noncompliant” identifications include “An ID issued by the US Department of Defense, a branch of the uniformed services, the Merchant Marine, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (or Veterans Administration), or the Indiana National Guard.”)
It’s just another petty annoyance for those of us with drivers licenses, but a hassle–and a message–for the elderly or disabled or others who don’t drive.
The message? Stay home. (Thanks to the safe districts created by gerrymandering, there’s no contest in most parts of the state anyway.)
After all, if God had intended us to vote, She’d have given us candidates.
Sheila Suess Kennedy, J.D. is Director of the Center for Civic Literacy and Professor of Law and Public Policy in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis. She is the Executive Editor for the Journal of Civic Literacy.
* Above image courtesy of diginomica.com.