Some of the voters who went to the polls in Missouri last week were asked to provide proof of their identity. They could do so with a photo ID, like a driver's license, or a non-photo ID, like a bank statement or utility bill. While this requirement may have seemed burdensome to some, it's worth noting that federal law imposes far more stringent requirements on anyone seeking a job in the United States.
A driver's license is sufficient proof of identity to vote in an election in Missouri. It's also enough to board an airplane post 9/11. It is not, however, adequate to prove one's identity to a potential employer. For that one needs an additional document, such as a birth certificate or social security card.
The presumed rationale is that it's vitally important to verify the identities of people who work in the United States. Isn't it just as important to confirm the identities of people who board airplanes or vote in our elections? Apparently not. If it were, the ID requirements would be the same. Employers who fail to confirm the identities of their employees can face severe penalties. One seldom hears of an election judge who was jailed for not checking a voter's ID card.
Our democracy depends on the integrity of our electoral process. If a single form of ID, with or without a photograph, is enough to vote in elections, why is it not enough to allow these same voters to work here legally? Put another way, if individuals are not eligible to work in the country legally, should they still be allowed to elect its government?
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Tom Schlafly is an attorney in St. Louis.