Someone told me that Aristotle didn’t care whether government was by a single ruler, a group of rulers, or the people, but that each form of government had a corrupt version, when the ruling class used its power to make government do its bidding. So, a single ruler becomes a tyrant, a group of rulers becomes an oligarchy, and people’s rule becomes ruling in their own self-interest rather than in the interest of the community or nation. This comes to our attention in the Arizona “Show Me Your Papers” law and voter ID laws being passed in various states.
Bill Keller touches on the issue in Show Me Your Papers. There are two ways the Arizona “Show Me Your Papers” law can be implemented. One where the people “other” than those supporting the law are targeted for action, that is those with the wrong accent or skin color; and another where applications of the law are random, and all Arizonans are potential targets. One can guess that Arizonans supporting the law clearly intended for others, not themselves, to bear the burden of being targeted, and with Aristotle, this would be the majority ruling in its own self interest.
Likewise, there have been a bevy of voter ID laws suggested and sometimes passed in several states. In most cases, “we” who support the laws already possess the documents required to vote and won’t be hassled; it’s the others who have to pay the price by going through the hoops of getting an ID card when previously they got through life without one, or going without voting. Again, with Aristotle, this is the majority ruling in its own self interest.
The dilemma: how can citizens, albeit with the wrong accent or skin color, prove that they are not illegal residents when asked to provide papers which they don’t need to possess? Also, when voting, how can you prove your citizenship and right to vote with a government-issued ID like a driver’s license, when even legally-resident non-citizens who don’t have the right to vote can legally produce a driver’s license at the poll?
But there is a solution to the dilemma, and I have a simple proposal to implement said solution, one which will resolve both concerns over illegal immigration and voter fraud. In order to vote, and in order to drive a car, everyone will need a resident/legal-voter card and be required to carry it on their persons whenever they are in a situation where a police officer could reasonably stop and ask them for it, or whenever they wish to register to vote, or vote at the polls.
How would this work? A new government office would be established, or new responsibilities added to a current government office, say the Department of Motor Vehicles. Each resident, citizen or not, legal or not, would need to apply for a resident/voter card, and carry this card with them at all times. Since we need to be revenue-neutral in our proposal, there would be a fee for applying for this card; also, fines for those who don’t apply, or can’t produce the card on request, could be used to offset administrative costs. This card would require a photograph, and in order for the photograph to represent the individual in a reasonable manner, would need to be renewed on a regular basis, say every three years. To acquire the card would require proof of residency or citizenship, so each individual would need to produce a passport or birth certificate for voting rights, or a green card for resident, non-voting rights. Those who can’t produce an official birth certificate and don’t already have a passport, unable to prove their citizenship, would not be allowed to vote; individual states would have to determine if the individual should be deported, since they can’t prove they have a right to be in the country. The card would then list resident and voting status, killing two birds with one stone!
It is said that 9% of previously eligible Pennsylvania voters don’t have driver’s licenses or equivalent government-issued IDs. The hoops that this 9% have to jump through to prove their right to vote are the same hoops that the 91% should have to jump through, in the name of fairness, and in accordance with Aristotle’s notion of true, non-despotic government.