Follow Kyle Thompson @theironlewis or @k_thompsonusa.
Honest, fair elections are critical to the good health and well being of a representative democracy. A republic cannot flourish if its citizens feel that their voice has been cancelled out by fraudulent votes in a “fair” election. If indeed an ethical electoral process is the standard for a democracy’s clean bill of health, than sadly the United States of America is ill. The American electoral system is bleeding in many ways; yet, enforcing voter identification requirements at the precinct provides one sure way to repair serious wounds. Now is the time for state governments, if not the federal government at large, to pass voter identification laws in order to preserve the sanctity of U.S. elections.
The dispute that makes voter identification laws a divisive, partisan debate is the controversy of whether voter fraud truly exists in American elections. Whenever the topic surfaces, the mantra that is repeated almost uncontrollably by opponents of voter identification laws is that election fraud is an old wives tale, nonexistent, or at least not widespread enough to justify “draconian” measures—like asking voters to provide photo identification at the ballot box.
However, voter fraud does exist.
In fact, this past April Kim Strach, Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, discovered what voter identification proponents have feared all along: widespread fraud. In a report to the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee by the North Carolina State Board of Elections on April 2, 2014, Strach revealed two shocking realities. First, the report included information from an audit of more than 50,000 new death records on file at the Department of Health and Human Services, of which 13,416 were identified on voter rosters as of October last year. The same audit revealed that eighty-one of the deceased voters have associated voting records in elections that exceed their date of death. Furthermore, the report disclosed findings from the 2014 Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program that showed 155,692 people with matching first names, last names, and date of birth remain registered to vote in both North Carolina and one of twenty-seven other states participating in the crosscheck. 756 of those also had matches for the last four digits of the voters’ Social Security number. Including those 756, records indicate that 35,750 voted in both states in the 2012 general election (Strach, Burris, and Degraffenreid).
Dick Morris, adviser to former President Bill Clinton, wrote about the report in an article published by The Hill newspaper titled “Investigate 2012 vote fraud.” Morris made the crucial distinction that “past allegations of fraud have all been based on voter registration data, indicating a vast potential for fraud, but without proof of actual double voting, there’s no hard evidence. But the North Carolina study focused only on those who actually cast ballots—far more important criteria” (Morris). Morris insisted “the projected number of actual double votes nationally could reach to 1 million,” since North Carolina accounts for only 2.5 percent of the U.S. population. The actual total number of double votes casted nationally in 2012 is speculative at this point, since only twenty-eight states participate in the crosscheck initiated by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in 2005 (Morris). Among the twenty-two remaining states not participating in the crosscheck are California, New York, Texas, and Florida, all of which contribute the most votes in the Electoral College, and happen to be the most populous states in the Union.
In 2008, the Indiana State Legislature passed a strict voter identification law that was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (2008). Richard Posner, the judge presiding over the case in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, addressed the “voter fraud does not exist” argument in his decision. Posner argued that the U.S. faces “…the form of voting fraud in which a person shows up at the polls claiming to be someone else—someone who has left the district, or died, too recently to have been removed from the list of registered voters, or someone who has not voted yet on election day. Without requiring a photo ID, there is little if any chance of preventing this kind of fraud because busy poll workers are unlikely to scrutinize signatures carefully and argue with people who deny having forged someone else’s signature” (Crawford v. Marion County Election Board).
Posner continued saying, “…the absence of prosecutions is explained by the endemic underenforcement of minor criminal laws (minor as they appear to the public and prosecutors, at all events) and by the extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator. He enters the polling place, gives a name that is not his own, votes, and leaves. If later it is discovered that the name he gave is that of a dead person, no one at the polling place will remember the face of the person who gave that name, and if someone did remember it, what would he do with the information?” (Crawford v. Marion County Election Board).
Opponents of voter identification laws will press the assertion that voter fraud is a myth. In a way, they are correct, but not because voter fraud is nonexistent. As the Honorable Richard Posner pointed out, voter fraud is a myth because identifying fraud offenders at the poll is nearly impossible, let alone apprehending them. There are simply not enough safeguards in place to ascertain the truth about a person’s identity before they vote. It is even more difficult to prosecute them with poor evidence that fails to disclose their real identity, but as Dick Morris commented in his piece, these new statistics coming out of North Carolina deliver concrete evidence. Morris ended his article stating that the next step should be “an interstate effort by local prosecutors to coordinate investigations of double voters. Let district attorneys in two states confront the double voters themselves and ask how it is that they voted twice, who helped to facilitate their fraud, did anyone help pay for their travel, did they get compensation for voting twice and so forth” (Morris).
The reality that voter fraud exists has left several searching for solutions of how to reconcile the integrity of the American electoral process. “One response [to voting fraud], which has a parallel to littering, another crime the perpetrators of which are almost impossible to catch, would be to impose a very severe criminal penalty for voting fraud. Another, however, is to take preventive action…by requiring a photo ID,” concluded Judge Posner (Crawford v. Marion County Election Board). He’s completely right; passing legislation that would require voters to provide photo identification at the polls is a simple, preventive measure that would eliminate a whole host of errors related to fraudulent elections.
At the federal level, photo identification legislation is stagnant. With Congress in gridlock internally between the two houses and externally with the White House, there is no way that legislation of this nature would even make it to the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. Even if the Republican supermajority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed such legislation, the Democratic Senate majority would likely prevent the bill from seeing debate on the Senate floor.
Interestingly enough though, there is a movement brewing to circumvent this type of gridlock. Constitutional lawyer and nationally syndicated talk radio host Mark R. Levin delineates in his most recent book, The Liberty Amendments, a process imbedded in Article V of the U.S. Constitution that grants power to the fifty state legislatures to amend the Constitution. Levin, Chief of Staff to former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, describes at great length how a runaway federal government that was intended to be innocuous has become ubiquitous in almost every respect. The Liberty Amendments is an explanation of the role of state legislatures in the Article V amendment process, which states that “the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments…when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof” (US Const. art. V).
The former Reagan Administration official proposes eleven amendments that he believes would correct the trajectory of the federal government and protect the freedoms of Americans. The last amendment that he proposes addresses American elections, ensuring that they are secure for all citizens. He breaks the amendment down into five sections that, in summary, suggest voters be required to produce official photo identification (Levin 183). The amendment also curtails the early voting period to less than thirty calendar days, and reins in the use of electronic consoles (Levin 184).
Levin’s amendment proposal is exactly the type of proactive solution that the American public must hear about. In fact, now is the right time since recent polls show overwhelming majorities of Americans feel that providing photo identification at the ballot box is not cumbersome, but a great idea. Last summer, McClatchyDC, a news bureau based out of Washington, D.C., released a poll that found eighty-three percent of respondents in favor of requiring voters to “show identification in order to vote” as a “good thing” (McClatchyDC).
This sentiment is not just a recent ground swell. In August of 2012, a poll conducted by the Washington Post found a similar discovery. The Post asked correspondents, “In your view, should voters in the United States be required to show official, government-issued photo identification—such as a driver’s license—when they cast ballots on Election Day, or shouldn’t they have to do this?” (The Washington Post). Seventy-four percent of those polled answered yes.
A month later, the Pew Research Center released results from a survey they conducted, asking, “Should voters be required to show official photo identification before they vote on Election Day?” (Pew Research Center). Seventy-seven percent answered yes. It would seem that requiring a person to provide photo identification is a popular view among the majority of Americans.
As state legislatures look towards a solution at the federal level via the Article V provision, many are working effortlessly and proactively in their own states to secure fair elections statewide. Thirty-five of fifty states have already passed legislation enforcing new or reformed requirements for voters to show photo identification at the polls. Some of these laws are not in full effect, as many are being challenged in court (Jost 172).
Last summer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas over a voter identification law passed by its state legislature. Holder argued, “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights” (Dinan). The Attorney General was referring to a decision that the U.S. Supreme Court made last June to strike down provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required certain states with a history of voter discrimination to ascertain preclearance from Congress before altering any laws pertaining to voting rights or electoral procedure (Voting Rights Act of 1965). In 1965, Texas met the criteria for restriction, but—as of last summer—the Lone Star State was one of several that can now pass election laws without federal preclearance; hence, the lawsuit.
Texas is one of many states (including Arizona, Kansas, Missouri, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and others) that are embattled in court against special interest groups like the NAACP, or against the Department of Justice; but why the struggle? (Fuller) If asking to show photo identification is a proven way to verify one’s identity, why is there such dramatic opposition to these laws? In other words, is it not logical that in order to deter fraudulent voting, asking voters to produce identification should be a given in order to determine that they are exactly who they claim to be?
Don’t forget that citizens have affirmative responsibilities in this country. As mature adults, American voters should be required to take the most minimal, nominal steps to acquire information that they can provide on Election Day to prove their identity. After all, is it not a requirement to forfeit official photo identification when purchasing alcohol from the local convenience store or restaurant? Photo identification is certainly necessary to buy a plane ticket and board a plane. Renting a house or leasing an apartment requires valid photo identification; entering a 21-years-or-older club, buying a pack of cigarettes, obtaining a loan, and opening a bank account all demand photo identification. Why is it then that when it comes to voting, all of a sudden photo identification is not a requirement? “We the People” loses its ring the moment one unlawful vote is cast, because even one fraudulent vote is one too many.
Nonetheless, Eric Holder, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and others are intent on disrupting a solution that would protect the future of the voting franchise in this nation. They insist that asking someone to provide legal photo identification at the voting precinct is racist, an effort to disenfranchise minorities and the poor, a poll tax, a literacy test, or any other number of outrageous comparisons. If photo identification is necessary to do all these other daily activities, it should be even more necessary to vote.
When all is said and done, voter identification laws are straightforward. If a man or woman wants to vote, all they have to do is demonstrate they are who they say they are. Once they have done that, they are not banned from voting. There is no poll tax, there is no literacy test, and there are no property requirements. No person is disenfranchised or racially discriminated against; all that man or woman needs to do is to simply show photo identification. If racial discrimination does occur after identification has been provided, then that person can bring a fully justified lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Voting Rights Act of 1965). When signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson that was its purpose: to protect all citizens from racial discrimination at the polls. The act is an enforcement of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting any type of racial discrimination in the electoral process (Voting Rights Act of 1965). The VRA was renewed, extended, and expanded by Richard Nixon in 1970, Gerald Ford in 1975, Ronald Reagan in 1982, and George W. Bush in 2006—all Republican presidents (Levin 195). Yet, ironically, opponents insist that by supporting voter identification laws, Republicans are bent on committing racial injustice.
Why is it, then, that opponents keep bringing the issue up as if these state legislatures—Republican-controlled for the most part—are pushing a Ku Klux Klan effort? After all, if requiring a photo ID is such an effort, the federal government is participating in a huge way, since photo identification is required to enter a government building (like the Department of Justice or the White House), pay a traffic ticket, attend speeches given by politicians (like President Obama), or participate in a plethora of other government related activities. If the act of asking someone to produce photo identification to verify their identity is truly a racist endeavor, then by that same logic Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder should direct their security staff immediately to stop checking photo ID at the entrances to the White House and the Department of Justice, lest they themselves be deemed as “racist.”
The question that’s left, then, is this: are state legislatures racist because they are requiring you to have photo identification—that is, a photo with your pigmentation on it? On its face, this whole “racist” argument is racist itself, as it elicits soft bigotry towards minorities. Former President George W. Bush said it best in 1999 when he was the Governor of Texas: “Some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less—the soft bigotry of low expectations” (qtd. in Paslay). Although talking about education at the time, President Bush’s words cut to the heart of the argument waged by opponents. By asserting that asking for a photo ID is racist, opponents imply that the very minorities they wish to protect from “racism” are incapable (i.e. not intelligent enough) of acquiring basic photo identification, revealing their low expectations of them.
Other arguments posed by opponents of voter identification laws claim disenfranchisement. In his column, “Challenge to Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Challenged,” published by Human Events, John Hayward discusses a report titled “Citizens Without Proof.” Hayward explains that the report, published by the Brennan Center, “purports to chart the disproportionate effect of such laws on segments of the population most likely to be without driver’s licenses and other suitable forms of identification,” and asserts that voter identification laws perpetuate disenfranchisement (Hayward).
What many voter ID proponents want to know is this: if it’s such a burden to get a free, government-issued photo identification card, how can these same people be expected to fill out tax forms, which are more complicated than photo identification applications? How are they expected to go on a computer if they’re too poor or illiterate, and sign up for Obamacare? The government is becoming increasingly more complex, and yet the American people are told that the basic effort of getting a photo identification card for free from the government is burdensome. When in fact, the real situation is that some states are trying to clean up their voter rolls, because people move out of state and remain on the roster. These movers end up registered to vote in multiple states, as discovered in North Carolina, exposing elections to a variety of opportunities for fraud (Strach, Burris, and Degraffenreid).
Hayward also takes into consideration the accusation that the National Center for Public Policy Research made against the Brennan Center, which is funded by George Soros, describing their work as “shoddy.” The author goes on to say that “’shoddy work’ is the very heart of the crusade against voter ID” (Hayward). He concluded, “It’s all very loose, impressionistic, and emotional. Of course sympathetic individuals are brought forth to make manipulative arguments from anecdote”; and he’s right. Each state that has passed legislation to make voting more secure has been inundated with emotionally driven news stories that offer “disenfranchised” victims.
There is no way for proponents of these laws to compete; they are left stranded with logic and basic common sense, with no personal tragedies to exploit. The only disenfranchisement that exists is that of American citizens who vote legitimately under federal and state constitutional law, but have their votes cancelled out by fraudulent ones. Maybe proponents should isolate their stories, and invite them to share their woes on national news outlets.
The bottom line is this: if somebody votes who does not have the legitimate authority to vote under our legal system, they are in effect canceling somebody else’s vote. Is it not crucial that we stand behind the integrity of the electoral process? It’s been fought over for so long by civil rights movements, not to mention that the U.S. Constitution has been amended four times over it—particularly to guard against disenfranchisement as a matter of constitutional and statutory law. Why wouldn’t the government require people to show photo identification to demonstrate who they are? One would think that even minorities would be appalled over finding out that their legitimate vote was subverted by fraud after an election.
Simple logic extinguishes the claims that voter identification laws propagate disenfranchisement and racism. Voter identification laws are racially neutral and not cumbersome; otherwise, the judicial system would have to sift through law books, and strike down every law that “burdens” citizens with the necessity of proving their identity. These laws have worked well in states already using them. Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey said that voter identification laws in place in Tennessee lowered voter fraud suspicions in the 2012 general election (Hayward). Even the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, issued a report in 2005 titled “Building Confidence in U.S. Elections” that made the recommendation to require voters to provide photo identification at the polling precinct (Paslay). All in all, voter identification laws are a positive, well-vetted solution that the majority of Americans agree should be passed and enforced.
Voter fraud is either a crime or it’s not. If it’s not, then unfortunately our republic is no longer democratic. If it is, then all measures should be taken to prevent it and prosecute it aggressively, just like any other crime. Voter identification laws will not only help catch transgressors, but they will safeguard future elections by deterring others from committing such acts. A strong signal must be sent, and enforcement of these laws will do just that. Until then, election fraud will continue to occur, just as all crimes that provide criminals with great benefits at low consequences do.
Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 472 F.3d 949, 953 (6th Cir. 2007), aff’d, 553 U.S. 181 (2008).
Dinan, Stephen. “Holder sues Texas to stop voter ID law, congressional maps.” The Washington Times [Washington, D.C.] 22 Aug. 2013: 1. Web. 17 May 2014.
Fuller, Jaime. “Wisconsin threw out voter ID Tuesday. It’s a fight still playing out in 12 other states.” The Washington Post [Washington, D.C.] 29 Apr. 2014: 1. Web. 17 May 2014.
Hayward, John. “Challenge to Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Challenged.” Human Events [Washington, D.C.] 27 July 2012: 1. Web. 17 May 2014.
Hayward, John. “Voter ID Works Like A Charm In Tennessee.” Human Events [Washington, D.C.] 15 Nov. 2012: 1. Web. 17 May 2014.
Jost, Kenneth. “Voting Controversies.” CQ Researcher 21 Feb. 2014: 169-92. Web. 20 May 2014.
Levin, Mark R. The Liberty Amendments. New York City, NY: Threshold Editions, 2013. Print.
McClatchyDC. “Marist Poll for McClatchy on Voting Rights Act.” McClatchyDC [Washington, D.C.] 25 July 2013: 1-8. Web. 17 May 2014.
Morris, Dick. “Investigate 2012 voter fraud.” The Hill [Washington, D.C.] 8 Apr. 2014: 1. Web. 17 May 2014.
Paslay, Christopher. “Voter ID and the Bigotry of Low Expectations.” American Thinker [El Cerrito, CA] 4 Oct. 2012: 1. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.
Pew Research Center. “Broad Support for Photo ID Voting Requirments.” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press [Washington, D.C.] 11 Oct. 2012: 1-2. Web. 17 May 2014.
Strach, Kim, Marc Burris, and Veronica Degraffenreid. “Presentation to Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee.” North Carolina State Board of Elections [Raleigh, NC] 2 Apr. 2014: n. pag. Print. 17 May 2014.
The Washington Post. “Fear of voter suppression high, fear of voter fraud higher.” The Washington Post [Washington, D.C.] 13 Aug. 2012: 1. Web. 17 May 2014.
U.S. Constitution. Art. V.
Voting Rights Act of 1965. August 6, 1965. Print.