BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
I suppose it was inevitable.
It was just a matter of time, in a state that has seen the likes of the farcically inappropriately named “Minutemen” who professed to address immigration issues, anti-bilingual education ballot measures passing, and dozens of millions of dollars spent to kill passage of a very simple GMO* food labeling ballot measure.
A so-called “voter ID” law seems to be headed for the California ballot. You can see for yourself what has been filed with California’s Secretary of State for signature verification here.
One of the scariest aspects of this proposed law, from an Armenian community perspective, is that it would prohibit a citizen from receiving an absentee ballot if their name as registered doesn’t match their name on their ID (most commonly a driving license). Having been through a number of elections now, I have seen many Armenians’ names slightly, and sometimes even badly, mutilated. I attribute this to our names being unfamiliar to those who enter the data off voter registration forms. When the handwriting is bad, such staff would probably be able to guess if the name is actually “Gardner” vs. “Goezibeuyoukian”, don’t you think? Result? Two letters might be off in the Armenian name and s/he will be denied.
Then there’s more stringency in signature matching requirements. But heck, people’s handwriting and especially signature, changes slowly with age. That’s an open door to excluding seniors from casting their ballots.
But that’s not all. If I read the proposal correctly, voters would have to write their date of birth on the outside envelope. I wouldn’t want to do that and expose myself to identity theft. Another worrisome change is the prohibition of student IDs being used as valid identification, making it tougher for people on campus to vote. This makes very evident the part of the political spectrum the proponents of this ballot measure represent. Since younger voters tend to be more left leaning, this is an attempt to weaken support for Democratic Party candidates.
Further confirmation that this is a right wing ploy is that the changes proposed in this ballot measure are very similar to those passed in other states with right wing legislatures. Ironic (and thereby funny) in this respect is that people whose ideas political tend to fall into the right-wing usually oppose expanding government activity and expenditure. Yet, that’s exactly what this measure does. It authorizes creating a process by which people would have two weeks AFTER an election day to provide the required identification—think of how much more work/staff this will require. The number of provisional ballots generated will tend to increase because of the way this law, if passed, would handle voters at the polls— again, this means more work/cost. It creates more opportunities for legal challenges, thus gumming up the election process and weakening citizens’ confidence in it. A particularly amusing twist is that a new system of voter identification numbers would have to be created according to this law— once again, imagine the costs.
Another dead giveaway of the malign intent of this proposal is that it starts out with seemingly reasonable premises, then shows its true colors when you read the nitty-gritty changes being put forth. It is claimed that California is lagging in implementing HAVA** requirements. If true, that really should be remedied, right? It also calls for a statewide database of voters to help eliminate duplicate registrations, another very sensible item. But you can see from what I’ve related what the real intent is.
Those of us living in California should be watchful and alert to see if this proposed measure qualifies for the ballot. If so, then we should be strong advocates of a “no” vote come next November’s election—the earliest it could appear before the voters.
*GMO: genetically modified organism
**HAVA: Help America Vote Act of 2002