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Americans don’t like the idea of a national identity card. But in an era of intense controversies over election integrity and illegal immigration, it is time to rethink the subject.

Our views on national identity documents trace back to the British. When the U.S. was founded, immigration was largely unregulated, and people knew their neighbors, so voting was secure.

We are now in a crisis in which many people lack confidence in the integrity of elections. Some of these fears are unfounded*, but in 2020 unsolicited mailing of ballots and abandoning of signature checks on mail ballots provided the basis for skepticism far beyond the concerns of prior years. Restoring trust in elections is crucial to the country’s unity.

Republicans have long pushed for in-person voting using government-issued photo ID. Democrats have opposed such a system on grounds that the poor are less likely to have such identification. But if everyone had a national identity card and presented it when voting, we could have full enfranchisement with full integrity.

Immigration could also benefit from a national ID card. In 1986 Congress enacted a grand compromise in which amnesty for illegal aliens was paired with discouraging further illegal immigration by mandating checks of immigration status for people being hired. Such checks failed because no identity system was in place; the result was amnesty with a surge of new illegal immigration.

*I would not say, at this point, that some of these fears are unfounded. I'd say that any of these fears probably only scratch the surface.