Are ID Cards Racist?


Some things need to be longer than 140 characters. When you make a statement on twitter, about something you take for granted, and people you know, respect and care for disagree with you… you quickly realize twitter is not the place to have meaningful conversations. Are reasonable people allowed to disagree with each other? Of course we are. This seems to be one of those times.

This discussion goes back many many years in our country.

Originally, this sort of thing was used to keep people with a legal right to vote, from voting.. but this country is a long way from the Jim Crow laws of the south and the segregation that I and my children only barely know anything about from our history classes.

So, in today’s day and age, should people show ID when they are voting? The answer to that seems so obvious to me that it’s hard to understand people not wanting to show ID when making some of the most important choices in our country. We have to show ID for so many other things, to check out a library book (or at least to get the initial library card), to travel by plane, to rent a car (or to buy one from a dealership) – even purchasing certain cold medicines requires showing an ID – so why not voting?

It seems that the prevailing argument today for the “don’t check ID’s” side is something along the lines of, don’t fix what’s not broken. In other words, their isn’t an issue, so stop trying to change things. I believe this is misguided on two levels.

First, the very fact that states don’t currently check ID’s makes finding fraud very difficult.

That’s sort of the point isn’t it? Imagine this scenario: what if your email account was publicly available, and anyone could walk in and pretend to be you and read your email. Now imagine that you wanted to create a log-in, so that you had to be authenticated before reading or sending your email– obvious right? Of course you want make sure that you are you before you do something important like send an email. Now when you make a statement like “hey – can I have a log in to make sure that it’s me?” – and you are met with “can you prove that other people have been logging in as you?!!” , “um well no, because there hasn’t been a log in required.” This is essentially what’s happening today, people are voting without authenticating.

Isn’t the point that we don’t know because we haven’t been asking people to “log in”?

Exactly… how to you prove something that has been intentionally (and willfully?) ignored – we’re not asking people to authenticate – then asking people to prove their have been false "log-ins"? BTW – I know the email vs voting isn’t a perfect analogy – I’m talking about authenticating people, and most of us use email just about everyday.

Second, there has already been plenty of fraud.

Sure, if there were no signs at all of fraud.. I could go with that, but realizing that we’re not authenticating people at all (or very loosely at best), let’s look at what we have been able to find..

more than 50 voter fraud convictions. Those include a woman who voted in place of her dead mother, a political operative who cast ballots for two people, and a city councilmember who registered foreign nationals to vote in an election decided by 19 votes. Voter fraud is hard to detect, so cases like these are just the tip of the iceberg. [emphasis added] – USA Today / Greg Abbot (2012)

81 voters have a voter history later than the date of their death. The audit further identified 13,416 deceased voters on voter rolls in Oct. 13….

A total of 35,750 voters with matching first and last names and date of birth were registered in North Carolina and another state, and voted in both states in the 2012 general election. Another 765 voters with an exact match of first and last name, date of birth and last four digits of their Social Security number were registered and voted in the 2012 general election in North Carolina and another state…A total of 28 states participated in the crosscheck, leaving data missing from 22 other states. – North Carolina (2014)

Young undercover agents were able to vote using the names of people three times their age, people who in fact were dead. In one example, a 24-year female agent gave the name of  someone who had died in 2012 at age 87; the workers at the Manhattan polling site gave her a ballot, no questions asked. Even the two cases where poll workers turned away an investigator raise eyebrows. In the first case, a poll worker on Staten Island walked outside with the undercover investigator who had just been refused a ballot; the “voter” was advised to go to the polling place near where he used to live and “play dumb” in order to vote. – National Review 2014

In the following video published earlier this year, James O’Keefe is seen testing the Michigans’s voter-ID law, which allows non-ID holders to vote if they merely fill out an affidavit claiming they are who they say they are. It’s assumed that such affidavits are almost never checked. Using this ruse, O’Keefe told different poll workers he was Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne State University Law School dean Jocelyn Benson, and columnist Nancy Kaffer of the Detroit Free Press — all whom strongly oppose voter-ID laws. In each case, poll workers offered him primary ballots for the person he was claiming to be. He was also offered the ballot of legendary Michigan rapper Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III.


Either this is just scratching the surface of fraud, or this is fraud that’s blown way out of proportion – until we start authenticating people, how will we really know?

One of my core philosophies of work – is open and fun dialogue – with the right to be wrong. So what are your thoughts on voter ID? Is this all about voter suppression, or ensuring the integrity of our elections by having people authenticate? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this dear reader. Until then, happy voting.  🙂


Updates (8/9/2016):

As has been pointed out, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was designed to help to help “standardize” ID requirements at least in federal elections. The challenge is that HAVA was passed in 2002 and so many of these examples all have happened since then..


Also, as you read through these.. remember, it was 537 votes that gave us a George W. Bush presidency. So reading about 400 people double registered here, 1000 non-citizens registered there a couple hundred people voting for the dead there.. it all adds up and makes a difference!


May 23, 2016: Investigation Uncovers Votes Being Cast from Grave Year After Year in Southern California

A comparison of records by David Goldstein, investigative reporter for CBS2/KCAL9, has revealed hundreds of so-called dead voters in Southern California, a vast majority of them in Los Angeles County… CBS2 compared millions of voting records from the California Secretary of State’s office with death records from the Social Security Administration and found hundreds of so-called dead voters. Specifically, 265 in Southern California and a vast majority of them, 215, in Los Angeles County alone. The numbers come from state records that show votes were cast in that person’s name after they died. In some cases, Goldstein discovered that they voted year after year. Across all counties, Goldstein uncovered 32 dead voters who cast ballots in eight elections apiece, including a woman who died in 1988. Records show she somehow voted in 2014, 26 years after she passed away. It remains unclear how the dead voters voted but 86 were registered Republicans, 146 were Democrats – CBS Los Angeles


More reading:


Examples of voter fraud (too many to include – just go start reading):


Finally, there are no silver bullets. I’m not saying that voter ID would solve all issues (double voting across state lines for example)… but the first step to fixing something is admitting that it’s broken, when our leaders won’t even do that, how are we going to start securing the integrity of our votes?


Photo Credit Trump graphic.

About Caleb Jenkins

Caleb Jenkins is an international speaker, author and 6 time Microsoft MVP award recipient, he currently works for Solera as a Director of Software Development. An entertaining and informative speaker who approaches software from a fresh perspective that spans UX, agile practices and technologies for enterprise customers from across the globe. Leading UX product design teams, coaching multi-team agile transformations and architecting and mentoring at some of the largest companies in the world, As a long time community leader and former Microsoft Developer Evangelist, Caleb is well known for his engaging speaking style, depth of knowledge and creative energy. Founder and Principal Mentor of Proaction Mentors, former UX Manager and Agile Coach, Senior Architect for Six Flags Corporation, Product Architect on a Cloud Marketing Platform, Caleb has made a career out of empowering others while building products and teams that delight customers and solve business needs. You can follow him on twitter (@calebjenkins) or his blog, and if you're still reading this, then you could also subscribe to his blog RSS feed or sign up to receive updates by email