Photos on Social Security Cards

Posted: April 13, 2014 by Marner in Politics
Tags: ,

Last week Andrew Young, a civil rights activist and former UN ambassador, advanced an idea to address the popular conservative complaint that people need to have photo ID to vote. When Young was at an event with President Obama and former President Clinton, he pitched them on the idea of adding a photo to the Social Security card. The card is already issued free of charge to anyone with a valid SSN and is already accepted by the federal government and most states as a valid secondary form of identification. I had never thought of this and the idea is growing on me. Every US citizen has a SSN and can already get a card. I don’t think it would be a huge burden to Social Security offices to add the capability to issue photo IDs just as driver’s license offices and military installations currently do.

I don’t object to a photo ID requirement for voting in and of itself. What I object to is people having to pay any money to obtain that ID. To me, that is poll tax and is blatantly unconstitutional. What we’ve seen from the right wing with regard to voter ID are attempts to only allow the types of ID that their voters hold, while refusing to accept comparable ID from groups that aren’t likely to vote for their candidates, such as accepting a concealed carry permit but denying a student ID. Both are issued by the same state government, but only one is approved as valid identification when voting.

I predict we will see Republicans vigorously oppose this idea. In fact, Rand Paul has already come out with ill-informed opposition:

“This is a really bad idea,” Paul said in a statement. “The Social Security card is only supposed to be used for Social Security benefits. This idea would make it easy for the federal government to convert the Social Security card into a national identification card.”

Now, I’m sure that Paul has received a driver’s license from his home state of Kentucky, so he should know that a Social Security card is accepted by the state as a secondary form of ID, making his first sentence false. His second sentence is meant to appeal to libertarians and Tea Party extremists who see a national ID as a step toward eliminating individual privacy rights or as the mark of the beast.

I would be willing to meet Paul halfway on this. Make the photo optional so a person can choose to get a social security card with or without it. When you think about it, a photo really isn’t necessary until a child hits their teenage years. At the same time, pass a law stating that a photo Social Security card MUST be accepted by the States as valid primary identification for the purpose of voting. With this proposal, we’ll see just who is actually concerned with voting integrity and who just wants the “right” people to vote.

  1. 02casper says:

    I would agree with you on this. Why not make a picture optional on a free ID. Many conservatives don’t want free IDs because they don’t want poor people to vote.

    • mitchethekid says:

      No shit. And they don’t like it when other groups vote as well. But they especially don’t like having the obvious exposed and rubbed in their faces. Voter fraud my ass.

  2. I’m against the concept. There’s no substantial evidence of voter fraud so I see no reason to burden taxpayers with extra hurdles. It would be a capitulation to a non-existent problem, and the added expense and bureaucracy shouldn’t be discounted. Finally, Paul is right that this could easily become a de facto national I.D. card which I’m very much opposed to.

    • Marner says:

      I agree that voter fraud is an invented crisis being used to prevent certain constituencies from voting. I see this proposal as a way to remove one of their main talking points. I don’t really see it as a hurdle, since the cost of adding a photo is pretty small and there is no requirement for anyone to get a Social Security card now, nor do I think it has been proposed as a requirement in the future. Every citizen has a SSN by their second birthday, so if they wanted a valid form of primary ID, not just for voting, they could get one at no cost to them.

      I also truly don’t understand the opposition to a national form of ID. My passport and my military ID are recognized forms of national ID. I don’t see what the government could do with a Social Security card with a picture on it that it can’t already do and I don’t have a fear that our government, regardless of who is in charge, would try to do anything with it. Why do you oppose a national ID, especially if it is voluntary?

      • Well, perhaps I’m misunderstanding your position. My main problem is that you seem to be fine with green lighting voter ID requirements while under the impression that optional SS photo IDs will solve any disenfranchisement that will occur. Is that right?

        I also think you’re underplaying the costs. How much do you imagine this would cost? Millions? Tens of millions? I think so. And for what? By capitulating to a national photo ID requirement you’ve given in to the GOP talking point anyway.

        As for national ID, if it’s voluntary I have no problem with it. If it’s any kind of new tracking system or requirement, I’m against. With modern privacy and hacking concerns which are just going to become more grave in the future I’m against more databases unless there’s a material need. Here’s a few more reasons:

        In short, I’m very much opposed to voter ID laws and feel we should be fighting that battle, not spending millions on optional SS photo cards which won’t solve the problem anyway.

      • Marner says:

        That’s not entirely correct. My position is that I don’t have a problem with photo ID for voting as a general principle. I do have a problem with voters having to pay for any access to the polls and with some forms of government issued ID being acceptable while others are prohibited for no other reason than to make it more difficult for undesirable groups to vote. I do not think photos on SS cards will solve all disenfranchisement concerns, but then nothing will. There will always be ID requirements and there will always be people who are unable to obtain ID, whether it has a photo or not. I think the SS card is an option that will help mitigate the problem of not having a pisture ID, not just for voting, since everyone has a SSN.

        I don’t think this concedes the false “voter fraud” talking point. I think, to an extent, it neutralizes the talking point by making photo ID more widely available to everyone, regardless of their situation.

        There will be a cost associated with the card, but the SSA already provides cards for free to anyone that asks for one. In my opinion, adding a photo would be a small increase in the cost of already providing that service.

        I think the ACLU’s concerns are a bit overblown. A national database already exists in the SSA. This proposal would just add a photo to that database. You could even require that the photo be deleted once the card is issued and not retained in any database. After all, the purpose would be for someone to show that they are who they say they are, not for any government agency to have a database of people’s pictures.

        Regardless, the proposal for a photo SS card is voluntary. I haven’t seen anyone insisting it be mandatory, just as it isn’t currently mandatory for a person to possess a SS card.

      • I don’t think this concedes the false “voter fraud” talking point. I think, to an extent, it neutralizes the talking point by making photo ID more widely available to everyone, regardless of their situation.

        I disagree. Rather than neutralizing the talking point this proposal would actually strengthen it. Republicans would redouble their efforts pushing voter ID laws while being able to say “Hey, everybody can get the proper photo ID right on their SS card free of charge, what’s the problem?!” So the push for stricter voter ID would actually have fresh wind under its sails while the poor, elderly, mentally or physically handicapped, etc. would still be disenfranchised. And don’t think for a minute the GOP wouldn’t find new ways to game the new system and shift the goalposts.

        Again, you’re still underplaying the costs. We would be spending millions to address a bogus GOP talking point, yet we would only be strengthening it.

  3. meursault1942 says:

    Hey, watson, I saw you trying to get an explanation at B4V of what, exactly, is “unconstitutional” about the BLS vis a vis the Nevada nutjob. Good attempt. Shame Spook immediately chickened out and CSL could only uncork one of her trademark diatribes. It’s almost as though they throw around the term “unconstitutional” without any regard to what it actually…but that couldn’t be the case, could it?

    The closest they came to an explanation is this vague sense that it’s OK to break laws if you don’t like them. That’ll be good to note the next time conservatives start prattling about law and order.

    Also, I loved CSL’s invocation of Rosa Parks. Why yes, Rosa Parks and her fellow civil rights activists were considered domestic terrorists–by conservatives. Funny how that works.

  4. 02casper says:

    Watson did a great job of taking on CSL and her buds by staying on topic and challenging their take on the situation, so of course CSL attacks him. Of course, a couple of days ago, I was told that it’s my fault that our education system is failing because I don’t teach my students Latin and Greek so they could read Marx the way Jefferson did.

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