Benjamin Franklin once said, ““Today a man owns a jackass worth 50 dollars and he is entitled to vote; but before the next election the jackass dies. The man in the mean time has become more experienced, his knowledge of the principles of government, and his acquaintance with mankind, are more extensive, and he is therefore better qualified to make a proper selection of rulers—but the jackass is dead and the man cannot vote. Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man or in the jackass?” Franklin’s remarks on barriers to suffrage remain prescient today even though the requirement to own property to vote was abolished in 1856.
For Texas resident Anthony Settles, the “jackass” that prevented him from voting in the 2016 election was the lack of a current photo ID.
Such a document is difficult to procure for Settles, whose name does not match his birth certificate as a result of his mother’s re-marriage when he was a minor, according to a Washington Post article written by Sari Horwitz.
His name-change certificate was lost by his family and authorities in Washington, D.C.’s where he was raised, and the cost of securing a replacement are prohibitive. As a result, in 2016 Settles was one of 25 percent of voting-age African Americans unable to cast a ballot.
Securing the ballot box is a massive undertaking, requiring constant vigilance by 50 state and 3,000 county elections officials.
Thanks to these passionate public servants, only 31 cases of voter fraud were confirmed among the 1 billion ballots cast in the U.S. between 2000-2014. Despite the impressive success rate in securing American elections, voter ID laws have added additional responsibilities to the voting process have served only to disenfranchise voters. Thirty-one out of 1 billion cases are no reason to disenfranchise 1 percent of any group of Americans, let alone 25 percent of a historically marginalized population.
These statistics should spur us to action. When we become fearful for our democracy, we should try to participate in the process, and there are several ways this can be done locally.
The Union County Clerk’s office utilizes volunteers to monitor ballot drop boxes on election night before collection by deputies, and some functions are filled by a ballot-opening board. The ballot tallying process is also open to be viewed by the public. It is only your participation in the democratic process, not repressive voter ID laws, that can keep the American experiment on the right path.
Alex is the former chair of the Eastern Oregon University College Republicans. A graduate of EOU and College of the Canyons in Valencia, California, he is a veteran of multiple local, state, and national campaigns, including Bud Pierce for Oregon Governor, and Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for President.