Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows is expected to testify at the State House on Feb. 6 when the State Legislature considers a proposal from Sen. Matt Pouliot (R-Kennebec) to implement a photo identification requirement for voting in Maine’s elections.
A total of 35 states have some form of voter identification law, though most don’t require a photo ID, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. If Pouliot’s bill passed, Maine would join states like Indiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, where a photo ID is required for all voters.
In 2021, Bellows opposed similar legislation, telling the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee that voter ID laws are “rooted in white supremacy.”
Opposition to voter ID laws comes almost exclusively from members of the Democratic Party, and the opposition is driven primarily by claims like Bellows’. Typically, critics of the law argue that it would disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities because racial and ethnic minorities have more difficulties getting photo identifications. The questionable premise of that argument notwithstanding, the argument has not held up well in states that have adopted voter ID requirements.
The state of Georgia, for example, recently enacted a voter ID law, and although liberal think tanks and politicians all said the law would disparately disenfranchise black Americans, there’s no evidence that it did in last year’s elections.
According to a poll conducted on Jan. 17 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public & International Affairs, the percentage of black voters who said they had a “poor” experience at the polls was zero.
Despite Georgia’s voter ID law, which President Joe Biden referred to as “Jim Crow 2.0,” black survey respondents and white survey respondents reported nearly identical experiences at the polls. And despite claims that the law would suppress voting, Georgia’s 2022 midterm election voting broke records for turnout.
With that in mind, here are some questions Bellows should be asked if she intends to testify in opposition to Pouliot’s voter ID bill on the grounds that it is racist:
1.) How many eligible voters in Maine lack photo ID? Has your office studied the reasons why these voters lack ID?
2.) Do you have any evidence that racial or ethnic minorities in Maine who are eligible to vote are have more difficulties getting state ID than white people?
3.) Is voting the only area where this problem rears its head? Or are minorities in Maine negatively affected in other areas of life that require photo ID? For example, do you have evidence that the difficulty of acquiring a state ID is limiting ethnic or racial minorities’ ability to drive cars, fly, buy alcohol, get married, enter a federal building, or gain employment?
4.) If so, as the constitutional officer responsible for distributing IDs, what have you done in the last two years to ensure that your office isn’t exacerbating racism by making it harder for minorities to get photo ID?
5.) Is it racist to require a state ID in order to operate a motor vehicle? Are the Driver’s Licenses, which your agency administers and distributes, tools of white supremacy?
6.) Voting, like owning a firearm, is a constitutional right. Is requiring an ID to purchase a firearm also a form of white supremacy?