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Ability to Vote? Priceless. The Card That Should be in Every Wallet

Ability to Vote? Priceless

In states around the country, Tea Party-backed xenophobes and racists are launching legislation to make it harder for the poor and for people of color to vote. The GOP does not want convenience, because it tends not to favor them.

If that’s the way that they want to play ball, fine. I have a solution.

These new laws require that certified birth certificates be shown by someone registering, along with the usual identification.  The problem is that most people don’t carry around their birth certificate with them to the mall, the grocery store or to the other places where organizations who register previously unregistered voters usually make contact.  Some older people do not have a birth certificate as they were optional in some states in the earlier part of the 20th century.

Some states have motor-voter, where you can register to vote when you get a driver’s license or state ID card.  It’s a handy idea, but many of those laws were struck down for the same reason that these new bills are being introduced.

The purpose of these GOP-induced voter suppression bills is to discourage minority voters and the poor. Most usually register as a Democrat or Independent 3 to 1.

This means that, for many unregistered voters, they will have to appear at a state office, the DMV or a county assessor’s office, and present a birth certificate along with their Social Security cards to identify themselves. The wait could be hours, as it will be mixed in with other business of that office. The effect on voter registration is obvious.

You, or your parents,  had to present a birth certificate to get a social security card. It has, in past years, sufficed as proof of citizenship exactly because most states recognize that the birth certificate had to be cleared to obtain a Social Security card.  So why not just update the card so that you effectively carry around a verified copy of your birth certificate with you?

The current card is an antique. Printed on cheap paper, it can be easily forged.  Cards also get washed, rained on, and otherwise degraded.

What if the Social Security Administration modernized the card?  Using the same card systems that states use for driver’s licenses. Plastic cards with tamper-resistant watermarks and the like. Computer chip with a verification code that could be given to state governments and sold to others needing verification at a profit.

On the new card they can put a phrase “BIRTH CERT. VERIFIED.”  Heck, for the truly xenophobic states, perhaps even placing an image file of the birth record on an encoded mag stripe just so those Klan-lite types who insist on repressing voters have no reason to invalidate their use.

It is time that the Social Security Administration entered the 21st century.  Paper cards are out. Plastic cards with birth certificate verification are in.

Should we have to restate the obvious that anyone with a brain in their head knows about a Social Security card? Your birth certificate is verified by the agency, after all.  Birthers and the rest of their racist cohorts who want to disenfranchise people don’t seem to be very quick on the uptake.  Birth certificate verification and adding modern anti-fraud elements to the Social Security card should allow people to register as they always have, where they will, and keep the crazies and the cynical Republican operatives trying to stack the deck at bay.

Keeping efforts to get out the vote alive keeps democracy alive, even when totalitarian forces like the ones that have hijacked the Republican Party try to stack the vote in such baldfaced, obvious ways.

Hey, there’s upside for the President too: If Mr. Obama gets one, maybe 29% of Republicans might start believing that he’s actually from this country, up from the low 20% range now.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian, filmmaker and chef. Ad hoc, ad loc, quid pro quo... so little time. So much to know!

10 comments on “Ability to Vote? Priceless. The Card That Should be in Every Wallet

  1. Susana
    April 27, 2011

    I agree with your proposition to modernize the S.S. card. However, I would like to point out a factual inaccuracy in your post – you do not need to be a U.S. citizen to get a S.S. card. Legal resident aliens get one as well (they need it to work and pay taxes) but they are not eligible to vote. So, it has never been sufficient proof of citizenship, only proof of residency.

    • Brian Ross
      April 27, 2011

      Actually that’s not an inaccuracy. Yes, you are right that those with their green cards get social security numbers. In the states where they ask for an SSA number, though, they run them through the computer and should a legal immigrant without citizenship try to register, the computer kicks them back as a resident alien and invalidates the application.

      That actually helps the process.


      • Susana
        April 27, 2011

        “In the states where they ask for an SSA number, though, they run them through the computer and should a legal immigrant without citizenship try to register, the computer kicks them back as a resident alien and invalidates the application.”

        I’m sorry, but that is not true. As a legal resident, you submit an application and you get a SS number and card. Your application is NOT invalidated for being a resident alien – you do NOT have to be a citizen to get an SS card. I know this from personal experience (I was once a resident alien), so please don’t argue with me. How else would a legal resident get work, pay taxes and file tax returns? You need an SS number to do all that.

      • Susana
        April 27, 2011

        It sounds like you think there is a difference between a “legal resident alien” and a “greencard holder.” There is not, they are the same thing. “Legal resident alien” is the legal term that is on the card, while “greencard” is colloquial.

  2. rowdy55
    April 27, 2011

    You guys are talking around each other… Brian is talking about registering TO VOTE. When your application to register TO VOTE is checked against the database and your found to be a resident alien then it (the voter registration) is kicked back not the application for the SSN. Geez.

  3. Palmer
    May 3, 2011


    It doesn’t that is the simple and only answer.

    People like you would like others to believe that immigrant is an ethnicity, and that only brown or dark-skinned people are immigrants… yet you will sit there and call everyone else racist? HA!
    And then use this as leverage to let illegal immigrants vote, have jobs here in the U.S. (and other countries, I would assume) illegally?

    Immigrant is not a race, it’s just that simple- it doesn’t matter if they are coming from the “Whitest” parts of Canada, Europe, South Africa, Australia (which, yes, the United States does get illegal immigrants from those areas, but not as much as Mexico)… Illegal immigrants are still illegal immigrants.
    Saying that all immigrants are Mexican and that there is no such thing as a White Mexican is a lie, outright. There is no debate there, it is just an indisputable fact!

    Okay, the other questions are hypothetical and rhetorical questions.
    I have one real question (or a two part question, rather) that I want a real answer for:
    Why try to act like immigrant is a skin color (in other words, LIE) to get people on your side? Don’t you think that’s a little bit of a low-blow and an insult to your readers’ and others’ intelligence?

    • Brian Ross
      May 4, 2011

      First, thank you for telling me what I believe, and casually lumping me into some amorphous group of liberal bogeymen you can conveniently take aim at. Since that premise is already wrong, you don’t begin well. Let’s try to tackle the meat of your concerns without all the fat-headedness which seems to surround it.

      The piece you’re responding to deals with citizens of the United States, mostly poorer people and largely people of color, African-American, Indian-American, Native American, who already are citizens and who are being disenfranchised by laws cooked up by Republicans to discourage voter registration.

      The incidence level of illegal aliens registering to vote is near zero. Of those that try, the cross-check by the state registrars with Social Security weeds 99.99% of them. You can’t vote with a green card social security number, because it flags when state registration offices check it.

      Illegal immigrants should not vote. They don’t. I never equated the skin color with being an immigrant. This seems like a nice canned rant you have cooked up and that you read about every fifth word then launch off into it.

      You might try reading the text before you put blasts on the blog.

  4. Carl Nulsen
    May 4, 2011

    I support showing identification to vote, and even requiring a birth certificate to register the first time seems valid. Just make it go into force for any elections starting after 2012. That would give all people over a year to figure out how to get a copy of their birth certificate. Everybody wins. Those who are concerned about fraud get their check and balance, and those who are concerned about disenfranchisement have a reasonable time period to get their houses in order.

    Lets see if we can all avoid politicizing things and do the reasonable, intelligent thing to protect our institutions.

    • Brian Ross
      May 4, 2011

      A Social Security card IS proof of a valid birth certificate. A modernized card would be able to either put that verification in a federal good-as-gold ok, or they could also put a secure image file on there so you would have a virtual copy in your wallet. No one is going to drag around their paper certificate, nor should they have to when we have the technology to verify that information and the SSA already does the verification when you file for a Social Security card.

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