Home 2012 races Lesson from Jim Cramer’s Dad’s Effort to Get a Photo ID: Inequality...

Lesson from Jim Cramer’s Dad’s Effort to Get a Photo ID: Inequality Under the Law

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When last Tuesday “Mad Money’s” ranting financial guru, Jim Cramer announced with outrage that his father couldn’t get a photo ID, I had high hopes that at last people might listen. Cramer’s father was a veteran, but had no proof of citizenship. I thought just maybe people who see no problem with increasingly restrictive voter ID laws would understand what the poor and the elderly have to go through.

But barely had Cramer announced his father’s problem when a PA official let him know he would be helped. That’s nice. It turns out being a celebrity matters and equal protection under the law means, well, squat. But vote suppression by any other name is still vote suppression.  And where vote suppression is concerned, to hell with the rest of the voting public.

Would the same thing have happened if the complainer were a Democrat? I doubt Jim Cramer is. And the rush to help Cramer, but no one else, pretty much proved the point.  By their quick action, the PA official assured that a loud voice was quieted.  Soon, they hoped, everyone would forget.

The upshot is the to fix a non-existant problem real people are being kept from voting.  When I went to the DMV this summer the wait was two hours.  The very next day waits got longer when kids were out on summer vacation making waits even longer. Some people had to stand.  And for many seniors that may be prohibitive. This new push toward more identification happens at the very same time Republican legislatures have cut back DMV hours across the country.  They should lengthen, not shorten, office hours.

Long wait times are only part of it.  

Some of our nation’s elderly, like Cramer’s father, do not even have birth certificates because they were born at home, or were naturalized citizens but lost their paperwork. Others cannot prove definitely their citizenship, which some states’ laws require.

An added problem is cost. Getting an ID can cost $30 or more, depending on where the individual lives. It’s easy to discount how impactful that can be.  About 16% of Americans live below the official poverty level, but about 30% are in fact poor. Another 20% are struggling to stay within the middle class. For America’s poor of any age, money matters when you have to struggle to put food on the table or buy medicine.

But that’s only part of it.  Assuming the birth was registered with the county of birth, it costs to get a birth certificate too. Without a car, it costs to get to the DMV. And that assumes mass transit seres all of those without driver’s licenses.  The bottom line is that it can cost $68 dollars or more to produce the documents and get the IDs.  For those who do not drive or otherwise need such identification, requiring them to get one amounts to a poll tax.

Poll taxes were eradicated. But the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act mean nothing to today’s GOP.  Actually, that is not completely true.  Today’s GOP so rabidly opposes universal voting for all of America’s citizens that it seeks to get rid of the Civil Right Act, which protects the vote for minorities. The GOP is that desperate to take the election by any means necessary. You gotta ask, how can anyone vote for these guys?

It can take weeks for a birth certificate to come in the mail. In some states you cannot get a birth certificate in person.  Find out what your state allows. If you know someone who doesn’t have identification, work with them to get that identification. Time is short.

If all else fails, help someone you know join any lawsuits to bar states from enforcing such laws this election year. Most states didn’t give citizens enough time to act.  Donate to organizations like the ACLU, and the non-partisan League of Women Voters, which are fighting such efforts.