By Dennis Wilhite
Oklahoma State Question 746 requires every person appearing to vote to provide proof of identity by presenting either valid government-issued picture identification or a voter registration card. I believe that when the Oklahoma Legislature passed SQ 746 and sent it as a referendum to a vote of the people, there wasn’t much thought put into the collateral damage caused by such legislation. I think of how many citizens of Oklahoma were disenfranchised by a “yes” vote on a ballot measure. In most cases the electorate goes into the booth with a great understanding of the questions, either because they have an interest in a measure or they just want to know what they are voting on. This is how it should be when we vote. But all too often, we go into a voting booth and just mark yes or no without much interest in what effect the measure has.
With the passage of this legislation, what will be the affect on the poor, the lower middle class and elderly citizens of this great state? During the debate about this legislation it was said that it would cure the “voter fraud” epidemic that was sweeping both the United States and Oklahoma. Really?? So, in just how many school board, city council and state races, have there been accusations of “voter fraud” either alleged or, more importantly, PROVEN?
According to Oklahoma Watchdog.org, the last person to be charged with voter fraud in Oklahoma was 73 year old Darryl Cates in 2010, but otherwise, there have been few or no major cases of voter fraud. It was brought out that if there was just one case of voter fraud prosecuted out of this legislation, it was worth the effort. My question, is do we save the one to the detriment of the 1,000's? I would certainly hope not.
Technology has come a long way. People used to go to the cemetery, collect the names of those deceased and use that name to vote. In our data-driven world, this type of crime would be harder to achieve with records being checked and cross checked. Having this law in effect has caused many people to become as the “dead” with respect to their ability to vote, in example, while the elderly has always had trouble with being homebound or in facilities, this law has only disenfranchised them more. People argue the case that in today's society, some sort of identification is needed for any major transaction. While true, some people do not carry their identification to the polls, mostly due to habits of not needing them or someone taking them to the polls and not having any identification with them. While we, the Muskogee County Democratic Party, respect and support the vote of the people, we are also vigilant in ensuring the voting rights and privilege of each and every citizen. This right is protected by the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution. We are now working to ensure that the unintended consequences of SQ 746 does not infringe on the rights it was intended to protect.