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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Claritin-D vs. Voting ID

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Joanne Butler
Joanne Butler
Joanne Butler of Wilmington is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a former professional staff member of the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

For my fellow Delawareans who support the idea of same-day voting registration (registering to vote the same day as the election), I’d like you to try this little experiment.

First, go to a pharmacy.

Then ask the pharmacist if you may purchase a decongestant containing pseudoephedrine (e.g., Claritin-D, Sudafed Congestion).

The pharmacist will ask you for your identification. Tell him or her that you don’t have a driver’s license, but you really need the product. The answer will be no.

Then offer to show your utility bill to the pharmacist; tell him or her that’s the only identification you have. The answer will still be no.

Why? Because a 2006 law requires the sale of pseudoephedrine-containing cold medicines to be sold behind the pharmacist’s counter or via a locked cabinet – and the purchaser must show a photo identification to the pharmacist. And the pharmacist can’t cut corners, unless he/she wants to risk the wrath of the Drug Enforcement Administration, not to mention losing his/her pharmacist’s license.

Beside the sales requirement, the law also mandates that retailers keep personal information about individual purchasers for at least two years after the purchase of the medicines.

Today, pharmacists generally have electronic systems that allow the seller to electronically verify the purchaser. Some systems have the capability to check, via one’s driver’s license number, if the purchaser has met or exceeded the federal monthly limit for pseudoephedrine-containing cold medicines.

The reason behind these legal restrictions is pseudoephedrine can be used illegally to produce methamphetamine. Therefore, restricting sales of pseudoephedrine helps to limit production of methamphetamine.

Here’s my public policy question: Why is the identification threshold for purchasing Claritin-D higher than being able to cast a vote?

Isn’t the right to vote important and fundamental to our system of democracy?

Isn’t it important to the integrity of our voting system to ensure that any person casting a ballot has the right to cast that ballot?

And how will a jurisdiction with same-day registration ensure that a person casting a ballot has already met his/or her voting limit (one per state and jurisdiction) on election day? A pharmacist who would rely on crossing fingers and hoping for the best would be running a huge personal risk.

Likewise, a voting system with a come-one-come-all policy for entry to the voting booth is running a huge risk of undermining the people’s faith in their government. Especially when citizens know that it’s tougher to buy an allergy drug than it is to vote.

So think on this my fellow Delawareans. And if this idea it makes you sneeze, be sure to wipe your nose. But don’t try to buy a pseudoephedrine allergy drug without your driver’s license!

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