Stop legislation that makes it more difficult to exercise the right to vote.

April 10th, 2009

Protecting Our Most Important Right!

Some contentious legislation is making its way to the Governor’s desk. This week, Gov. Henry issued his first veto of 2009, stopping legislation that would make it more difficult for all of us to exercise our most important right – the right to vote.

The vetoed legislation, Senate Bill 4, would have required all voters to show government-issued identification at the polls. I know that for some of you, this might sound reasonable – so let me share with you my reasons for opposing this bill. I believe that we should not create legislation just for the sake of looking or sounding as though we’re doing something. If we legislators put forth the effort to create new law and establish new bureaucracy, it should be because of a pressing concern to our safety, our welfare or our freedoms. Requiring that every voter produce identification may be a minor inconvenience on an individual level, but it amounts to a major bureaucratic undertaking on a statewide level. Lines will be longer, and more poll workers will be needed. If you don’t have an ID, you can cast a provisional ballot – but that requires more money and more staff for the Election Board. And you lose any knowledge whether your vote is counted. All this extra effort would be required, and for what gain? We already have laws in place to prosecute those who falsely cast ballots. The last time an Oklahoman was prosecuted for voter fraud was 2001 – and in that case, the current system worked wonderfully. So why do we need more laws and bureaucracy?

Since the birth of our nation, men and women have fought and died to preserve and extend the right to vote. They have taken down barriers that once allowed only a very few Americans to vote, and championed reforms to ensure we live up to the founding principles of our nation – “liberty and justice for all.”

Oklahoma’s current voting system has assured free and fair elections for over a century, and we have made improvements to make it more reliable. Voter ID laws would put us a step backward in the reliability and fairness of our elections. There is no basis in fact for this law, and even the bill’s biggest proponents can’t cite a clear need for this legislation. It’s a bad idea in this time of fiscal crisis to pass costly legislation with no clear benefit. I know some of you have concerns after hearing about problems with groups such as ACORN. However, this legislation would do nothing to address the kind of voter registration fraud ACORN was accused of in other parts of the country.

Immediately after Gov. Henry’s veto, my colleagues passed legislation to skirt around the veto and put voter ID on the 2010 ballot. Though the majority party won’t hear one bill to help seniors afford prescriptions or retrain displaced workers, they’ve now heard three bills to interfere with your right to vote. Perhaps some of my colleagues should reassess their priorities.