Judith Shklar paints a picture of American Citizenship for her readers in “American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion” and what she believes it entails, the right to earn, and the right to vote. “To be a voter was thus as much a condition as a call to action, and those who do vote today are still celebrating the civic estate for which many generations of excluded men and women have fought so energetically” (Shklar 28). Shklar simply puts it, without the right to vote you are a slave.
With the recent election coming up and the importance of every voice being heard, many people are coming out of the woodwork to vote that haven’t done so in the past. In my experience as a middle class white female, it’s been evident to me that anyone can do it today. Obviously it was taught to me in school that it hasn’t always been this way, with voting laws promoting the political beliefs of white land-owning males. But it has to be different, it must be different right? All that is needed on November 4th is a government issued id! Anyone can do it!
Here’s where things get a little blurry. A government issued id. Can be found at your local DMV for a mere 15 dollars. 100 for a passport, and most drivers licenses are around 30. What if you don’t have any of the above though? Maybe you don’t have access to a dmv? Maybe you’re an undocumented citizen, and even if you had a way to get to the DMV, you wouldn’t have a way to get a drivers license, or an id for that matter. Its argued that these laws are silly, voter id fraud is less than one percent. theseahawk.org says from 2000 to 2012 only 2,068 cases have been reported! Wow! Wait a second – if you had committed voter fraud, what are the odds you actually come forth and say you had committed the crime, knowing you’d be facing up to five years in prison. Hmmm….. Isn’t that kind of like a border patrol agent saying they’ve apprehended “15 % of all undocumented persons in Yuma Arizona this year!” How are we getting this number? The data certainly seems questionable to me, regardless of the source being biased or not.
According to Shklar, voting is more about social standing than anything. She tells us of former slaves who strongly support the right to vote not only because of their part in the democratic process, but more importantly because voting and citizenship go hand and hand. “Nothing is more unequally distributed than social respect and prestige” one group of people having the right to vote over another is alluding to the fact that certain groups are granted superior social standings, Shklar tells us. Would Shklar argue that voter id laws target those of a certain race, socioeconomic class or gender? Do we unknowingly still support slavery by having voter id laws? Where can the line be drawn for voters needing to present identification at the polls this November?
Shklar, Judith N. American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1991. Print.