CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At first glance, the voter ID proposal that some Republicans in the Legislature are discussing makes sense. After all, we already need an ID to do so many other things these days; like fly on a plane, open a checking account or purchase beer at a local convenience store, so why not require an ID to prove your identity before you cast a ballot?
Sounds simple, right? Well, as I quickly learned, it is not. I have come to the conclusion that their proposal is a very bad idea.
First, one would think they are suggesting changes to our existing voter ID laws due to a widespread problem with voter impersonation, right? Wrong! According to the Secretary of State, there are no documented cases of voter impersonation. That's right, not one single case!
Secondly, although the "right to vote" is not explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution, there are numerous references prohibiting the suppression of voters. In the 26th Amendment, the right to vote shall not be "denied or abridged," for citizens 18 years or older, by the United States or any specific state. The Constitution does not state that every citizen 18 years or older must have a government issued, unexpired photo ID to cast a ballot.
The argument over this issue is similar to the current national debate over the rights provided in the 2nd amendment. Like most, when lawmakers propose laws that take away my constitutional rights, I start paying attention.
Finally, have you tried to update or renew your driver's license lately? If not, you are missing a real treat. It practically takes an act of Congress plus a copy of every piece of legal documentation with your name on it since birth to update or renew your driver's license. In fact, although my driver's license is unexpired, it is not current because in my two trips to the DMV to update my address, I have failed to provide all of the documentation required. If the proposed change had been in effect for the 2012 election, I would have been ineligible to cast a legal vote.
On that note, my grandfather, who is not in good health, is 90 years old and hasn't driven for years. He's worked hard his entire life to provide for his family, his church and his community. He has been voting in the same precinct for decades and to the best of my knowledge, hasn't missed one opportunity to vote. If this proposal is adopted, my grandfather and thousands like him will have the additional burden of updating or renewing an ID they have no other worldly use for at this stage in life.
Clearly, the Republicans who are proposing this are trying to come up with a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Along the way, they want to infringe on our constitutional rights and create additional burdens to voters all over the state. Frankly, this proposal is nothing short of trying to suppress voters for political gain, and that is wrong.
I think it's time for us to take a stand, I know I am; not just for my grandfather, but for all West Virginians. We deserve better!
Sword is secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, a group of more than 575 unions.