I’ve always had a bit of a libertarian streak in me, combined with a bit of a bomb-throwing instinct. Sometimes, when I am confronted with something that offends my sensibilities, I come up with a plan to fight it that, quite frankly, comes across as a bit of radicalism.
Here in Manchester, NH, a few years ago, school officials were considering random drug tests of athletes. I don’t like such things; they smack of “unreasonable search and seizure.” The officials have no grounds or suspicions for their actions; the students are presumed guilty until proven innocent. I called up a local talk show and wondered how long that policy would stand if some annoying person were to assemble a list of substances that result in “false positives” and give it to the athletes. Just how valid would those tests be after that?
Now, another bit of asshattery is starting to get on my nerves. As my sometime colleague Rob Port of Say Anything pointed out, another judge has struck down a requirement that a voter be required to prove their identity before casting their ballot.
I think that requiring people to prove their identity before voting is an incredibly obvious thing, and I find it ironic that the ones who usually argue most strenuously against it are usually the ones who howl about Diebold and rigging of electronic voting machines. Were I of a more cynical bent, I would say that they are worried that high-tech vote fraud will undermine their own attempts at low-tech voter fraud — but I’m not quite that cynical.
My first impulse was to suggest a simple form of civil disobedience to point out the absurdity of these policies. Simply assemble a list of some of the most prominent voices against voter ID laws — the people filing the suit, their attorneys, and the judge who ruled on it, for example. Then go through the voter records and find out their precinct, address, and party registration. Then, the next election day, simply show up at their polling place as soon as they open and say you’re the official in question — say, Judge Richard Callahan of Jefferson City, Missouri.
“I am Richard Callahan of 123 Main Street, and I’m here to vote.”
“Um… I know Judge Callahan, and you’re not him.”
“Madam, under my most recent ruling, you are not allowed to demand to see my identification. I say I am Richard Callahan of 123 Main Street, and by law you are required to give me a ballot.”
(The irony is enhanced if the impostor is not even of the same sex of the person being impersonated.)
Imagine Judge Callahan’s reaction when he strolls into the polls and finds himself turned away, as he’s already voted. Perhaps that might lead him to reconsider his ruling.
The only drawback with my plan is a rather harsh one: it’s illegal. Now, I have no problems with violating stupid laws, especially to prove how stupid they are, but this one is a biggie. Voter fraud is a felony, and I can’t quite justify breaking this law, even to make a point as important as this. My “fight fire with fire” instincts only go so far.
But I will say this: if I thought of it, so will many others. And some of them might not feel as inhibited or restrained as I am. Sooner or later, someone just might try this idea — and then the sheer idiocy of the “no ID required for voters” policy will be shown to be the open invitation for fraud it is.
And on that day, I might be tempted to contribute to the violator’s defense fund.