By Jack Phillips
A Republican senator introduced a bill that mandates voter identification laws for states that mandate COVID-19 vaccine passports.
So far, no state has mandated a vaccine passport-like system. New York City became the first city, however, to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination when entering businesses like restaurants, bars, gyms, and theaters.
“If states that take federal money for elections feel the need to make residents verify a piece of information as private as their vaccination status just to return to normalcy, then they should have no problem requiring people to prove they are who they say they are when they go to vote,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who introduced the bill, said in a Tuesday statement after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine passport announcement.
Cramer said the legislation would also “ensure those states are being consistent about their identification requirements and shine a light on those who hypocritically oppose Voter ID laws but support vaccine passports.”
Many Democrats at the state and federal level are opposed to voter identification laws. When Georgia’s GOP-led legislature signed an election overhaul bill earlier this year that mandated voter identification for mail-in ballots, a number of Democrat lawmakers and even President Joe Biden assailed the measure and described it as an assault on democracy.
Cramer’s bill likely won’t garner enough votes in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Democrats by a slim majority. However, should Democrats oppose the measure, Republicans will likely attack their position and characterize it as hypocritical.
A number of states, meanwhile, including North Dakota, have outright banned vaccine passport-type systems in certain circumstances. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a measure earlier this year barring private businesses from implementing such systems in the state.
At the state level, Oregon has perhaps the strictest rules in the county. In May, the state said businesses have to ask customers who aren’t wearing a mask for proof of vaccination.
The White House has also said that it won’t issue a federal vaccine passport mandate, although Biden this week praised de Blasio for implementing one in New York City.
Vaccine passports have been flagged by Republicans and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a possible violation of individuals’ right to privacy, arguing that such mandates could create a segregated society.
On Wednesday, Boston acting Mayor Kim Janey, a Democrat, sharply criticized New York City officials for implementing a mandate, suggesting that forcing people to show their vaccination papers is similar to the Jim Crow era.
“There’s a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers—whether we talking about this from the standpoint of, you know, as a way to, after—during slavery, post-slavery, as recent as, you know, what the immigrant population has to go through,” she told reporters. The mayor’s office later told news outlets that a vaccine passport system isn’t being considered in Boston.
“Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionately impact minority groups,” she said.
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