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The government's curious stance on photo IDs: You need one to enter a federal building, but not to vote

The government's curious stance on photo IDs: You need one to enter a federal building, but not to vote

The Environmental Protection Agency this week said anyone who wants to attend next year's public meetings to discuss its costly new smog rules will need to show a valid photo ID.

The announcement is just the latest example of the Obama administration's seemingly contradictory position on the use of photo IDs — they can be demanded of people committing the simple act of entering a federal building, but should never be demanded of anyone trying to cast a vote.

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 12.07.13 PM Eric Holder has fought voter ID laws all around the country, even as the federal government itself has demanded photo IDs just to enter federal buildings.
Image: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

The administration has said asking voters to show a photo ID is akin to suppressing the rights of voters. President Barack Obama's Justice Department has filed lawsuits against Texas and other states over state laws that Attorney General Eric Holder says "hinder access to the ballot box."

When discussing Wisconsin's voter ID law, Holder said that law imposed "significant barriers to equal access without serving any legitimate government interest."

Several states have said the purpose of a voter ID law is to fight voter fraud. In September, Holder dismissed this argument by saying voter fraud "doesn't exist."

But when it comes to the simple act of entering a federal building, the Obama administration appears to believe that security trumps the right of some people to discuss public policy issues. It routinely requires photo IDs for anyone entering federal property, even though by its own logic, that requirement will prevent some people from participating.

For example, the EPA proposed a sweeping regulation in November aimed at reducing smog pollution, a rule that Republicans said would cost the economy billions of dollars in compliance costs.

The EPA will hold several public meetings to discuss this issue, including a Jan. 29 meeting at the EPA's headquarters in Washington, and at the California Air Resources Board on Feb. 2. But you can't attend those meetings unless you have a valid ID.

"People attending the hearings in Washington and Sacramento will be required to show valid picture identification to enter the buildings," the EPA said Tuesday. "In Washington, an additional form of ID may be required for people with driver's licenses issued by certain states."

Earlier this year, the EPA said it would require people to bring a photo ID to attend meetings on another rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

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