T he very thought of having to carry a photo identification card on my person every time I leave the house leaves me cold.
When I say "having to," what I mean is "being forced to," as in being mandated by the state or federal government to do it whether I like it or not.
And I don't like it. I already have a PennDOT photo ID and a Social Security card (don't tell me that's not used as an ID card), so how many more forms of identification do I need to carry?
That's just a little bit too much government for my taste.
But that's exactly what could happen in this state if Republican lawmakers have their way. A photo ID bill for voting sits in the House State Government Committee as this is being written.
Debate/discussion on the bill could begin as early as the next week or two.
State lawmakers could say "no," of course. They could deep-six the proposal without even taking a vote on it.
In the end, though, that might not make much difference. Because a number of states -- Tennessee, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Texas and Kansas, most recently -- have voted to either expand existing identification laws or have adopted new personal identification standards.
As it stands today, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, these states require a photo ID: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
These states require identification, but not a photo I.D.: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Do the math. At least 29 states -- and the number is growing weekly -- already mandate some form of identification, photo or otherwise, to vote.
Can Pennsylvania be far behind? I suspect not. And even if they are, how long will it be before the federal government, which has been huffing and puffing about a national photo ID since 9/11, will put the clamps on all 50 states?
Not long, I'm thinking.
Because this is about two things -- voter fraud and illegal immigration. And Republicans are hot on this trail.
Actually, I'm also for ending (or limiting) voter fraud. And I'm in favor of putting the kibosh to illegal immigration, too.
So you'd think, I guess, that I'd be first in line to support photo IDs. I'm not.
Nearly every banking transaction, even a routine deposit, requires me to show a photo ID. It irks me every time I'm asked.
Write a check! Provide a photo ID.
Drive a car! Carry a photo ID.
Fly the friendly skies? Not without a photo ID.
Sign up for Social Security? You'd better have a photo ID.
Go to the hospital for an operation; go to the lab for a blood test; go for a routine bone density exam; go to the emergency room to have your sprained ankle wrapped, and you'll need a photo ID.
Hey, maybe it's just me. Maybe I've got one of those faces the powers that be don't like or trust.
And if I challenge having to provide an ID, I'm always told the same thing: "It's for your own protection, sir. We're doing it for you."
Phooey on that. They're doing it because the government tells them they must. Or for their own financial considerations.
So if we're already bombarded at every turn with requests for identification, especially photo, what's the big deal, you might wonder, if one more thing -- voting -- is added to the list?
Do I think a photo ID would make voting unnecessarily difficult? Heck no. Do I think it would discourage legitimate voters from voting? No. As it is probably only one in four citizens exercises his/her right to vote in any given election. Sometimes one in 10 might be closer to the truth. Could it get much worse by asking for identification? I doubt it. Not if the voter is on the up and up.
But do I think it would reduce voter fraud? Hey, it might. It could help in that department.
And after all, among the Social Security Administration, the IRS and the banking and insurance industries, the government already knows more about each of us than anyone needs to know.
So what's one more form of ID going to hurt? Right?
But I urge caution.
I cringe at the thought that a law enforcement official or a government employee could walk up to me on the street some day and demand that I provide a photo ID, or any ID for that matter, without probable cause that I've done something wrong. Flashbacks to Nazi Germany, if you get my drift. Or, the United States during the Civil Rights era.
I know -- this is America. It couldn't happen here.
Or could it?
Once everyone is photographed and properly registered, who's to say how it'll be used.
I don't know. And that's why I worry.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.