Voter ID and the Third Option Nobody Talks About

You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of extremes and balances but of constructiveness.  Welcome to a journey into a wondrous land limited only by the mind.  Your next stop: the Midmorning Zone.  

Witness a conversation between A and B, who may or may not be the same anonymous figures as last time.  These two people will discuss the tradeoffs of requiring or not requiring people to provide identification in order to vote.  They start from a position of disagreement about which tradeoff is worth accepting.  

In the world you’re familiar with, such a conversation would consist of several hours of back-and-forth statistics and dismissals, ultimately leading nowhere.  A and B are different, though, and the conversation between our two traveling companions will lead us through… the Midmorning Zone.  

A: Voting restrictions are making it harder for people of color and other underprivileged communities to vote, which is diminishing their voice in government.  We should remove the requirement for voter ID.  

B: I disagree with your conclusion on what we should do about the problem.  Removing voter ID requirements will make it harder to make sure people are not committing voter fraud by voting more than once, voting when they’re not eligible, or casting unauthorized votes for other people.  

A: I don’t think that happens very much.  

B: You say that, but how would you know?  Especially if we aren’t set up to tell whether voters are eligible in the first place?  

A: Okay, fair point.  I still think it’s more important to make sure we aren’t getting false negatives for eligibility–people who should be able to vote but whose votes are labeled ineligible–even if it means we get a few false positives for eligibility: votes that shouldn’t be counted but are counted anyway.  

B: I’m not sure I’m willing to take that same risk, but I respect your position.  I really don’t want to prevent eligible people from voting.  Is there something else we can do that helps eligible voters vote without lowering security standards so that ineligible votes might go through?  Could we make it easier for people to get IDs?  

A: Now that you mention it, that would help people a lot.  There’s all sorts of things people need photo IDs for.  Driving a car, boarding an airplane, opening a bank account, applying for certain welfare benefits, buying medication, seeing a physician…  There’s a lot of problems people without photo IDs face other than not being able to vote.  

B: It sounds like an important problem to solve, then.  So what prevents people from getting IDs?  

A: Part of it is the cost.  Not only do people need to pay for the ID card itself, but if they don’t already have the required identification documents on hand to get the ID card (such as a birth certificate and social security card), they need to pay to obtain those as well.  

B: We can set up programs to waive the costs for people in need.  Anyone who already qualifies for some sort of welfare should be automatically approved.  If a person can’t legally drive or open a bank account, that’s going to contribute to keeping them in poverty.  

A: That sounds great.  The other obstacle is the logistics.  Sometimes it’s too far to get to the office that issues the IDs.  Sometimes the nearest office isn’t open at a time that works for people.  Most of the time there’s a significant wait.  

B: That seems unfair to me.  Bureaucracies should cater to the needs of the public, not the other way around.  If people can’t get to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a state ID card, then we need to set up stations in the places where people need them the most.  Hiring and training local people to do the work will create jobs, at least in the short term, and computerizing the whole thing will help us prevent fraud.  

A: This project will cost money, you realize.  Are you willing to help pay for it with taxes?  

B: Sure, it’s an investment in helping people become independent by empowering them to build up their own personal infrastructure.  We don’t want them to remain poor.  

A: I’m glad you see it that way.  Anything worth doing usually takes deliberate effort.  Economic and political exploitation can only end with mindful investment in people.  And if we get people set up properly, we won’t have as many people who need welfare, which I expect will make you happy.  

B: Yes, and with the money and independence the ID will afford them, they will be able to keep their kids from getting caught in the same situation as well.  

A: I’m glad that we were able to figure out a constructive approach that makes the situation better for everyone.  

Me, your host: This conversation was brought to you by the Foundational Toolbox for Life, a system of basic concepts for framing problems and solutions constructively.  A and B have just demonstrated its use here as part of the Visionary Vocabularies project to help people go beyond arguing over tradeoffs and instead work together to build a world we can all be proud of.  

As the Toolbox becomes more widely used, conversations such as the one you just read will become our reality, and lead the way out of the confused, belligerent, flailing dawn of humanity into a thoughtful, neighborly, confident 9:30 or 10 AM.  You, too, can be part of ushering in the end of humanity’s protracted and painful beginning.  Tell your friends about your visit here and let them know that the planet Earth is late for brunch… in the Midmorning Zone.  

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