I saw a Kevin Drum post recently where he mentions a national ID card as a solution to enhance confidence in elections. Turns out he said this in 2012 also as well and I missed it. This got me thinking about how it would work and whether it would be a good idea.
I actually think ID requirements would be fine in the abstract; it could be done without enacting undue barriers to voting (e.g. giving everyone a free ID, and enacting protections against poll workers frivolously turning people away). It would increase confidence - impersonation is rare, but sometimes security theater is helpful to soothe the public. And elections absolutely require public confidence for a democracy to have any legitimacy, (gestures at Jan 6 insurrection).
When North Carolina had an ID requirement in effect (this was one election, before it was enjoined) there were a good number of types of ID represented, and to turn someone away, all 3 judges had to agree the person did not "substantially resemble" the ID picture, and any evidence offered by the voter had to be interpreted in the light most favorable to the voter. Even if we were to all agree that was not the person pictured, they could vote a provisional ballot, and show ID at the board of elections before the election was certified.
Despite that, there was only one person that day at my polling place who did not have ID - one of my elderly neighbors. It took her a couple of trips home to turn up an acceptable ID (her drivers license was expired long enough ago that it wasn't acceptable).
A universal free national ID card would be just fine for this.
In addition to knowing who you are, for elections we also need to know where you live, to know what districts you are in. A national ID card doesn't necessarily help this part. Automatic voter registration, where the state government updates your voter registration whenever you tell it your address (unless you ask them to not be registered at all), does help this.
A lot of people move without updating voter registration (to be fair, if you move within the same city you wouldn't think your ID needs updating, but you might well be in different districts for something or other). Interestingly, I'd think residence would be a philosophically slippery concept but even though we need to know whether you moved 30 days ago or before (NC law says politicians represent you when you have lived there 30 days) nobody has had trouble with corner cases of "when exactly did I move?"
In summary, I like the idea presented in the linked article, if automatic voter registration is added. So my ideal proposal would be:
- Free national ID cards for all citizens
- Said ID required to vote in person (with procedural safeguards as above)
- No-excuse absentee by mail or early voting, with anti-harvesting measures but no requirements for ID or notaries
- Automatic voter registration (that one can opt out of)
- Districting reform (e.g. that favored by Princeton Election Consortium)
- Risk-limiting audits (now mostly the conventional wisdom)