This is a quick story about social media, voting rights, and talking to the other side.
Last week I made a spur of the moment decision to dip my toe into TikTok. I have a friend who is a fierce activist who is killing it over there with her videos both informing her audience about what’s happening in politics and filming herself making calls to politicians to advocate for certain bills. (If you’re on TikTok, go follow @jesscraven101. Seriously. Do it.) Clearly there’s an audience there, so I gave it a go.
I had a couple of super short videos about voting rights that I’d made for Instagram, so I posted one on TikTok. It was about why I think having voter ID laws are dumb. In a nutshell, voter ID laws only prevent one type of fraud — that is, someone impersonating another voter and casting a vote in their name. And that type of fraud is vanishingly rare. Rare as in, it’s happened 31 times in over a billion votes cast over a 14 year period.
I post about voting rights all the time on Twitter and Instagram, and I seem to have attracted an audience of people there who care about those issues. I really don’t get trolled much. But wow. One post on TikTok and I was inundated by conservatives who were really mad.
They didn’t really bother me — after 5 years on social media, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin — but the educator in me really wanted to set them straight. Even though my general rule is to not engage with trolls. But away I went, letting them know that no state had a voter ID law before 2006 and there wasn’t any rampant fraud before then either. Or that the Georgia law has 96 pages of new rules and regulations and only one of them were about voter ID, and do they even know what suppression is?
But after a while, a few things became clear to me. One, if you say “voter suppression,” the only response the Republicans have is “voter ID is necessary.” Even if you are talking about other types of suppression, they always direct the conversation back to voter ID. Two, it becomes pretty clear right away which ones want to tussle with you and which ones just want to crap in your comments and then skedaddle.
I started to wonder if I could ask them a question that would sort out if they were truly worried about election security, and which ones were using “voter ID” to cover up their racism. And then I struck gold. This is what I started asking people:
“How would you feel if each state gave every eligible voter a free ID every few years?”
I figure, if they really care about election security, and only having eligible voters get IDs, this should be a no brainer. But if they were using IDs as cover, they would push back on this.
And it worked.
The folks that pushed back immediately responded with irrelevant/fallacious talking points like “everyone has ID already” or “everyone needs IDs to buy beer or get on a plane” or “your so condescending to think minorities can’t handle getting IDs.” (Yes, I spelled “your” incorrectly. Just like most of these commenters do.) Those folks I just signed off quickly and stopped talking to.
But a couple of them agreed with me. They said they had no problem with every eligible voter getting a free ID. They had stopped for a moment and we saw eye to eye on this one narrow issue. Which gave me the opening I needed. To those folks I simply said, “Although I think voter ID laws are unnecessary, I can get behind requiring them if every eligible voter gets one. I just don’t want that requirement to be a barrier that an eligible voter has to overcome.”
And what happens next is interesting. Nothing happens. This takes the wind out of their angry sails and the conversation just ends naturally and peacefully.
It’s been an interesting experiment to ask that question of some of my commenters on TikTok. I want them to get past only thinking of voter suppression as a voter ID issue. Maybe someday I can take the next step with one of them and convince them that cutting back polling locations or drop boxes or early voting hours is also suppression. Fingers crossed.
If you want to check me out on TikTok, I’m at @dhstokyo, just like my handle on Twitter and Instagram. See you there!