Saturday, September 10, 2011

DOT memo encourages trickery with new voter ID law

New policy tells employees to refrain from letting patrons know IDs are free

"While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it."

This is the new policy, put out by the state Department of Transportation, for the issuance of free IDs for the new voter ID bill. Rather than help people that come into the DMV to receive IDs for voting purposes, employees are now directed to refrain from mentioning those IDs are free, unless prompted from the patron themselves.

The move by the DOT is being criticized by many who see it as a poll tax -- and that criticism is entirely warranted. If the law is to issue free ID cards, then every effort to let people be aware of that policy should be made. Otherwise, some people will end up paying a fee simply to vote -- an unconstitutional practice.

Defenders of the move to suppress this information argue that it isn't exactly hidden -- indeed, signs at DMVs across the state will explain the ID card people need for election purposes is available to those who ask for it, at no charge. If people want free IDs for voting, all they have to do is ask.

But this isn't how we should run things. The DMV is a government-run institution, not an underground rave party. "Secret codewords" shouldn't be needed to take part in democracy, even if it's advertised openly. No one should have to pay any fee or tax in order to vote, and anyone who already has should be reimbursed for being misled by this new policy.

State employees shouldn't be encouraged or required to engage in acts of trickery. Government officials should instead push forward a policy of openness and honesty, especially when it involves democratic rights of the people.

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