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CA Assembly Speaker Perez Asked for Voter ID

CA Assembly Speaker Perez Asked for Voter ID

by Karen Ocamb on September 27, 2012

(Openly gay California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez. Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Metro Weekly co-publisher Sean Bugg has a good, angry piece up about how he was taking a young, gay and undocumented friend to an appointment with an immigration lawyer, when the young man said, ”Some of my friends told me they’re not going to vote, they don’t think Obama’s done enough.” Bugg explains that President Obama supports the DREAM Act and marriage equality while Mitt Romney wants undocumented people to “self-deport” and favors a constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights. He concludes:

Choosing not to vote — and flaunting that choice in front of a person who has far more to lose in this election than you ever will — is a selfish and small act. You have a total of 364 other days in 2012 to focus on your fabulous self; you can take part of the day on Nov. 6 to get out and vote. Who knows? If in a few years we find ourselves more equal as LGBT people, you may even discover there actually was something in it for you after all.

But there’s an even larger problem than self-centered gay Ostriches: voter frustration. During an interview for the upcoming Election issue of Frontiers magazine, I interviewed openly gay California Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and got a glimpse at the extent to which the Republican voter ID message has infiltrated the consciousness of America. In California, a state where it is illegal to ask for voter ID, Speaker Perez – the third most powerful person in state government – was asked for his ID when he went to vote in the June Primary. He described what happened:

In California – we don’t have voter ID laws. It’s illegal to ask for an ID in California. But when I went to go vote in June, they asked me for an ID. So I go to my polling location and there was a new poll worker. I gave her my name and address. And she says, ‘May I see your ID?’ And I said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Do you have your sample ballot with you?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t. Here’s my address, here’s my name.’ And she said, ‘Well, if you don’t have your sample ballot, I need your ID.’ I said, ‘Actually, you don’t need my ID, you just need to check my name and make sure it matches with my address.’ And she said, ‘Well, sir – do you have an ID.’ I said, ‘Yes, I have one.’ She said, ‘Well then why won’t you give it to me?’ I said, ‘Because you’re not allowed to ask for it.’ Finally another poll worker came over and said, ‘You know, he’s right. You can’t ask for an ID.’

Did I have an ID? Absolutely. But that’s not the point. The point is that in so many place it’s been used as a way to keep people from being able to vote. And [because they’ve been so successful with messaging] you have people who’ve been turned away here, even though it’s not a requirement.

Turned away here, in California. Now many might think voter ID laws are particular to Latinos, especially after the Advancement Project’s new report about the impact of the voter ID and voter suppression effort in that community. Or that this is only relevant to African American voters, for whom voting rights is an historical cause. And of course, there’s the incredible impact on transgender voters, as Melissa Harris-Perry noted to the Washington Blade.

(98 year old Ovarie Smith, center in white, was honored by the LA County Democratic Club Sept. 23. Assembly Speaker John A. Perez is second from left, Rep. Maxine Waters is holding Ovarie Smith, next to openly gay LA County Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman. Smith’s message: “Vote!” Photo by Karen Ocamb)


But what Perez’s story indicates is that this is a far wider problem than the disenfranchisement of minorities. Even in states with no voter ID laws or overt efforts at voter suppression – the Republicans have been so successful in pushing their message, so-called “low-information” voters of all stripes could be easily deterred from voting by just being asked for an ID that one doesn’t need and doesn’t have to present.  In the Frontiers interview, Perez said:

The Republican path to victory is based on people NOT voting. It’s not about convincing people, it about frustrating people. So when you look at their strategy for governing, it speaks to that same concept that if they can’t get their way, then frustrating anybody else from getting theirs is a good outcome. That obstructionism is a goal in and of itself because if you can obstruct, you can create frustration. If you can create frustration, you can decrease people’s level of optimism and you can undermine their desire to be engaged and vote.

Asked about the national and swing state polls show Obama with an increasing lead over Romney, Perez said:

I like the direction but you can never take any outcomes for granted. And so even if the direction continues to be positive in terms of polls – nothing matters until everybody votes.

You can register to vote online in California until Oct. 22.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Rik September 27, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Democrats had to show ID to get into the DNC.

Latinos had to show ID to attend an Obama event for Latinos. (They even removed dinnerware from the tables when Latinos were finishing up lunch, before Obama spoke.)

You have to show ID to get into Attorney General Eric Holder’s building, and most other buildings in Washington, DC.

74% of voters nationwide support voter ID.

Your employers will need you to show proof of identity before you start working.
You need a photo ID to cash a personal or payroll check.
Most banks ask for your Social Security number and a government-issued ID.
A photo ID is required to sign a lease.
Colleges ask for Social Security numbers, and may ask for photo ID.
Adult passengers have to show government-issued ID to board a flight.
To be eligible for some public benefits you need to prove your identity, age and residence.
You need photo ID to enter some government facilities.
You need to prove your identity and your residence to get a library card.
Some gyms require official photo ID to sign up to be a member.

I don’t understand what the problem is.


Brian Evans September 27, 2012 at 3:03 PM

You do understand the difference between voting and all the other things you mentioned, yes? Hint: What do many of those things have in common that voting does not?

Question: Exactly how many instances of voter fraud have there been in the last 50 years? Out of how many votes cast?

So exactly why are you proposing a process that will not actually improve anything but instead will have the sole effect of ensuring that people who are eligible to vote will be turned away? That’s what the problem is: You are proposing a “solution” to a non-existent “problem.”


Manny September 27, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Can I answer that?

…and upheld and EXPANDED by the 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th

many citizens (such as seniors) don’t have proper documentation to prove their birth and, believe it or not, many others don’t have the resources to pay for an ID (which, word has it, can be considered a poll tax if it’s a requirement).

Everything “Rik” listed isn’t a right guaranteed by the Constitution…some people are just too smart to fall for red herrings, believe it or not.


Manny September 27, 2012 at 5:36 PM

oops! 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th AMENDMENTS (But I’m sure you know what I meant :) )


ToddCares September 28, 2012 at 12:21 AM

The “problem” is that new regulations have been put in place in some states that intentionally make it harder for the elderly, the poor, and students to vote.

The “problem” is your examples are BS. The identities of the voters in question has already been established, there is no widespread or even remotely significant voter fraud, never has been, and these new rules put in place in some states by GOP governors were done just to steal the fundamental right to vote from people.

The “problem” is you seek to prevent people from exercising their most basic right by making it more difficult to exercise it, for no legitimate reason.

But go ahead and feel all smug at making it harder for some 80 year old lady to vote who’s voted in every election, until now, just because you’re trying to keep the poor from voting. Scumbag.


Thomas J. Coleman September 30, 2012 at 1:31 PM

“Rik” comes across here as someone who’s obsessed with presenting an “officially approved” photo ID to obtain this-or-that-or-anything (how about a Happy Meal at McDonald’s?) and imposing such an obligation on those who exercise their constitutional right to vote, in order to restrict that right in a very self serving way — while failing to fully identify him/herself while doing so. That’s quite a stupid pet trick!


Michael Vilain September 27, 2012 at 10:16 PM

I voted across the street from where I grew up until I moved away to college. Then I came home to vote. They all knew me since I was in a baby stroller. No one ever asked for my ID. Even when I finally started voting elsewhere. I’ve voted absentee for the last 20 years because it’s just easier. So this whole “show ID to vote” never occurred to me that it was happening until I saw THE NEWSROOM. Scary.


Brian September 28, 2012 at 10:39 AM

This whole voter id issue is historically undemocratic. Voter supression should not be tolerated. Any politician with an agenda to suppress votes is treasonous to the moral fabric of America and democratic principles we uphold.


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