One of the greatest sins in our politics today is the way one party (the Republicans) has aggressively moved to disenfranchise voters who predominantly vote for the other party (the Democrats). (It’s one of the abiding and perhaps most significant results of the 2010 mid-term election.) As I said late last month, it’s the closest you get in democratic politics to mortal sin. The undeniable fact is that voter impersonation fraud (the only thing voter ID laws protect against) is extraordinarily rare in the United States, verging on non-existent. And the evidence is incontrovertible that large numbers of people are prevented from voting because of it.The folks who whip up paranoia about voter fraud — mainly among minority groups — are just execrable. But many people have been duped. They actually think there’s a problem. And so politically it’s important to convince these folks, at least the ones who are duped in good faith — though being duped and being duped because you actually want to be duped is often a rather slippery distinction.

So I put this forward as half a modest proposal and half a serious proposal. When we set up democracies overseas, you see those folks proudly showing off their ink stained fingers. It’s not exactly the same as voter ID. It doesn’t clarify who you are. But it’s sort of the same difference. It prevents multiple voting and it makes it clear you did vote. By any real standard multiple voting is what voter ID is aimed at preventing. If I vote in someone else’s name in New Jersey and I’m an adult, presumably I am entitled to vote somewhere. So there’s not a lot of point in voting fraudulently in Place A if I thereby can’t vote in legitimate Place B. If it was so important to me to vote in New Jersey I could live there.

Now this wouldn’t necessarily deal with felons voting or non-citizens voting. But they can have IDs just as easy as anyone else. So voter ID doesn’t prevent either of those alleged problems either.

At the end of the day, the only conceivable thing you’re trying to prevent with Voter ID is voter impersonation fraud and voter impersonation fraud only makes sense if you’re going to try to double vote. And the ink and finger routine is basically 100% obstacle to doing that.

I’d be happy to dip my finger. And it wouldn’t disenfranchise anyone. There’s really no problem to be solved on the voter fraud front. But if people insist that this ‘problem’ needs to be solved even though there’s no evidence of the problem, then this should be the solution.


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of