A group of state Democratic lawmakers and the New Jersey Citizens Action watchdog coalition took a stand against voter identification laws last week.
It was a symbolic stand, since there's no chance that the Democrat-controlled state Legislature would ever enact legislation requiring that voters show an official ID card at the polls, as 10 states, including neighboring Pennsylvania, have since 2010. But that doesn't mean the lawmakers are wrong.
In all, 37 state legislatures have either enacted or considered such laws. Three New Jersey Republican lawmakers introduced such a measure earlier this year.
The state laws are part of a national push by Republicans, who say they are necessary to combat widespread voter fraud.
This, despite the fact that no one can seem to find any widespread fraud, or narrow-spread fraud either.
An analysis of 2,068 reported voter-fraud cases over the past 12 years by News 21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative-reporting team, found just 10 cases of in-person voter impersonation, the kind of thing ID cards would guard against. That's one in-person voter-fraud charge for every 15 million prospective voters. Hardly an epidemic.
What voter fraud there is involves absentee ballots and voter registration problems, neither of which are affected by requiring in-person voters to show identification.
So why the massive effort to find a solution to a problem that doesn't exist?
Because most of the eligible voters who don't already have an ID card are people a bit outside the mainstream - students, minorities, the disabled, the elderly and people in poor neighborhoods. In other words, traditional Democratic constituencies. By requiring ID cards at the polls, Republicans are hoping to suppress the Democratic vote. It's obvious. Salome never wore a veil this thin.
Not that too many Republicans are admitting that, although it occasionally slips out, as it did when Pennsylvania's House majority leader, Mike Turzai, said the voter-ID law "is going to allow Gov. Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania - done."
Most voter ID proponents are sticking to the script, insisting that the movement is all about combatting the insidious problem of voter fraud.
Sure it is. And "Real Housewives" episodes are unscripted. And that's Marv Albert's actual hair.
But as transparent as the motive behind voter ID is, these laws are also kind of hard to argue with.
After all, you can't drive a car, board a plane, rent a DVD or borrow a library book without some form of identification. Isn't voting at least as important?
It sure sounds reasonable.
Which is why, instead of simply railing against voter ID, Democrats and independent civic groups should be mobilizing to help people get whatever identification they need to vote.
Like the civil-rights workers who traveled the South registering poor voters in the 1960s, such a campaign could do more than keep people from being disenfranchised. It could energize voters and, in an ironic twist, might actually lead to greater turnout in November.