We’ve spent most of the year listening to Democrats and liberals lecture the American people about how there is no such thing as vote fraud in the United States. The best response to these disingenuous arguments, which are intended to prevent the adoption of voter ID laws, could have been summed up in one word: Philadelphia. There may be other cities where electoral hijinks are far from unusual, but is there anything to match the long and not very honorable tradition of crooked elections in the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written and adopted? The city’s Democratic machine is a throwback to the Tammany Hall era of American politics that has vanished in even most of our most corrupt urban areas, but which is still going strong in the City of Brotherly Love. While liberals claimed the Pennsylvania Republican Party pushed through a voter ID law in the state legislature in order to steal the election, the real motivation for the law’s passage — and for the fact that most Pennsylvanians approved of it — was in the well known propensity of Democrats to pile up majorities in Philadelphia that were more than a little suspicious.
American democracy is the finest system of government in the world. But if there is anything that we have learned in the last 12 years, it is that it has one terrible weakness: close elections. The Bush v. Gore Florida fiasco set the tone for a legal arms race in which two major parties have demonstrated that they have one thing above all in common: they bitterly distrust each other. The escalation of this process in the current election cycle has reached levels few dreamed of not that long ago, as both Republicans and Democrats now take it as an article of faith that their opponents’ goal is steal the election.
As the New York Times reports this morning, it is entirely possible that lawyers will outnumber election officials at many polling places. None of this will matter much if either President Obama or Mitt Romney wins easily on Tuesday. But with the polls tightening up even further this week — and today’s Rasmussen poll showing the race tied after Romney had led in that measure for many days has to discourage any GOP activists who were entertaining visions of a Mitt cakewalk — the odds are the vote will be close and the outcome in some of the battleground states may trigger bad memories of Florida’s hanging chads.
Liberals celebrated yesterday when the same Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge who upheld the state’s voter ID law in August reversed himself and enjoined its enforcement on Election Day. There’s no denying that this is a defeat for the legislature that passed the bill as well as the overwhelming majority of Americans who back ID laws as a commonsense measure to deter voter fraud. But frustrating as it is, it is but a temporary setback. Both Judge Robert Simpson and the state Supreme Court have indicated that the law is constitutional. Yet Simpson, like many another judge when asked to affirm legal principles that are under attack by influential liberal forces, wavered when put to the test.
When Pennsylvanians go to the polls next month, they will be still asked to identify themselves with a photo card. But, as was the case in April when the rules were rolled out during the state’s primary, no one will be denied a ballot, even if they have no such documentation. The left-wingers who sued to strike down the law claimed voters would be unfairly disenfranchised. Simpson did not fully accept their assertions, but rather than face the storm that fully upholding the law would bring down on his head, he said there was not enough time before the election to ensure “liberal access.” While this means it will still be possible this year for political machines to turn out fictitious voters without fear of being caught — a time-honored political tradition in Philadelphia — in the future such shenanigans will be more difficult.
For most of this year, Democrats have been furiously asserting that Voter ID laws are not only racist but also unnecessary. They have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to make the case that requiring someone to present proof of their identity or citizenship while attempting to vote is the moral equivalent of segregationist “Jim Crow” laws. That is patently false, but they have also claimed that efforts to curb cheating in elections are not needed because there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States. But apparently one Democratic congressional candidate didn’t get the memo.
Wendy Rosen, the Democrat who was nominated to run in Maryland’s 1stCongressional District, withdrew from the race against a Republican incumbent after it was revealed that she had personally committed vote fraud in 2008. Apparently, Rosen voted in both Maryland and in Florida in both 2006 and 2008. Voting in more than one state is just one form of such fraud, but it is both easy and possibly quite commonplace. But as a candidate, Rosen’s double dip was discovered and now the Democrats are stuck without a viable candidate in the district since it is no longer possible for them to put someone else on the ballot. But the issue here is bigger than their already dim prospects for taking the seat or even whether Rosen will be, as she should be, subjected to prosecution. It is the absurdity of Democrats around the nation spending months telling us that such fraud is unheard of when not only is it quite common but also was committed by one of their own candidates.
The Obama administration won a victory today in their campaign to strike down voter ID laws. Only days after the United States District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated Texas’s new congressional and legislative districts, the same court struck down the state’s voter ID law. The court accepted the Justice Department’s arguments that the bill placed an undue burden on poor and minority voters. Texas has said it will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and its attorney general says he can prevail there because the court has previously ruled that voter ID laws are constitutional. State courts have upheld a voter ID law in Pennsylvania but Texas’ problem is that because of its past history of racial discrimination, it must get federal approval for anything relating to voting rights. But those looking for the Supremes to reinforce their previous decision on voter ID may be disappointed. The issue at stake in the Texas case will be the constitutionality of the federal Voting Rights Act that gives Washington the power to oversee the state’s laws rather than voter ID itself.
In states not affected by the Voting Rights Act, courts can weigh efforts to prevent fraud on their own merits. The overwhelming majority of Americans back voter ID laws because they are inherently reasonable. If you need a picture ID to board an airplane, an Amtrak train, conduct even the most simple transaction with the government or a bank as well as buy a beer, most people rightly think that you should have to do as much to vote. Given that, contrary to fallacious Democratic talking points, voter fraud has always been a concern in American politics; the courts have upheld such laws as both prudent and obviously constitutional.
Last week, liberals were dealt a cruel blow when a Pennsylvania court refused to grant an injunction prohibiting the Keystone State from implementing its voter ID law in November. The opponents of the legislation, who alleged that hundreds of thousands of citizens would be prohibited from voting, failed to show why a clearly constitutional measure aimed at preserving the integrity of the process should be thrown out, sending the state election machinery into chaos. However, the opponents of voter ID did gain some sympathy with both the judge and the public by highlighting the plight of the lead plaintiff in the suit, 93-year-old Viviette Applewhite. Ms. Applewhite, who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr., didn’t have a valid photo ID or for some reason, a Social Security card, and the name on her birth certificate didn’t match the one on other documents so in theory she lacked the proof needed to get the free photo ID the state is offering to non-drivers who want to vote. Ms. Applewhite’s predicament seem to bolster the argument that voter ID was a new version of segregationist “Jim Crow” laws. That was enough to get her picture on the front page of the New York Times last week in an article intended to bolster voter ID opponents case.
But it turns out the state machinery for helping such exceptional cases is not, as Democrats claimed, devoted to suppressing the vote. Last week, Ms. Applewhite, accompanied by a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer showed up at Department of Motor Vehicles office in the city and asked for a photo ID. She got one with no fuss and without any evidence that the clerks there had any idea who she was (perhaps civil service employees are too busy there to read the Times or other newspapers). Ms. Applewhite was delighted and said it showed that all you need to succeed is “to just keep trying.” She’s right but her erstwhile sponsors were not so pleased as community activists challenging the law reacted with cynicism and disappointment to learn that their claim that the law was intended to arbitrarily prevent honest citizens from voting was effectively debunked. But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from continuing to cast aspersions on the law as racist and to pretend that there is no such thing as voter fraud, even in Philadelphia.
Democrats who have been leading a campaign against voter ID laws had their sights set on Pennsylvania, where they felt they had a good chance to have legislation passed last year thrown out by the courts. Liberal activists held rallies in Philadelphia and have been asserting that the bill approved by the Republican-controlled legislature is nothing more than a recycled “Jim Crow” law. But the attempt to trash the Keystone State’s voter ID requirement failed today when a Commonwealth Court judge in the state capital threw out the challenge. Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr. issued a 70-page decision this morning in Harrisburg that stated the plaintiffs failed to prove their case that asking voters to identify themselves with a government-issued photo card would mean disenfranchisement and therefore denied an injunction that would have meant the law could not be enforced this year.
Simpson ruled that the voter ID opponents had not established that “disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable” and also made clear that trashing the law less than 90 days from the election would throw a monkey wrench into the state’s election system. While he expressed sympathy with those who said they would be prevented from voting, the voter ID law was constitutional. The decision creates a problem for state Democrats who have been counting on the courts to strike down the law and therefore absolve them from the task of seeing that their voters are legally registered and have proper identification when they go to the polls in November. Though liberals around the country have accused Pennsylvania Republicans of trying to steal the presidential election via the voter ID law, the law’s survival now puts the onus on the Democrats to mobilize their base without resorting to any of the tricks that helped the GOP pass the bill in the first place.
Liberals have spent most of the year trying to convince Americans that voter ID laws are a false front for racist voter suppression. They argue there’s no such thing as voter fraud and that legislation aimed at combating election cheating is merely a Republican plot to steal the election. But, as a new Washington Post poll on the subject demonstrates, the majority aren’t buying it. Almost three quarters — 74 percent — believe voters should be required to show official, government-issued identification when they vote. A clear majority of those polled also think, contrary to liberal allegations, that voter ID laws are rooted in concern about a genuine problem.
These numbers have to concern Democrats who are hoping to whip up a backlash against voter ID legislation by falsely claiming they are a new form of “Jim Crow” laws intended to foster discrimination. Indeed, given the drumbeat of incitement against voter ID laws in the mainstream media, you have to wonder why there is so much resistance to the liberal line on this topic. The answer, however, is quite simple. The public knows that claims that voter fraud is nonexistent run counter to everything they know about politicians, elections and human nature.
As part of their effort to derail voter ID laws, liberals treat it as a given that there is no such thing as voter fraud in this country any more. Doing so requires a leap of faith that requires one to ignore American political history as well as human nature, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from waiving the bloody shirt of Jim Crow in order to convince the public and the courts that what voter ID advocates are doing is a new form of discrimination. The New York Times editorial page has been in the forefront of those taking this disingenuous line of argument, but Ethan Bronner, their former Israel bureau chief, has written an interesting piece for their news pages that places the controversy in a more coherent frame of reference.
While not taking sides in the ID debate, Bronner mentions what many of those who have been saying about the need for voting integrity laws. The debacle of Florida in 2000 shows neither party trusts the other, and the closer the election the more likely it is that “chicanery” will be employed by one or both sides. Some of the arguments put forward by opponents of voter ID laws about large numbers of voters being disenfranchised are closer to myths than truths. He also points out that there may be large numbers of people voting in more than one state, as many are registered in two places. Most important, he gets at something–that those crying wolf about discrimination are ignoring the real problem: the need to put more effort into registering voters as most of those who might theoretically be excluded by voter ID laws have filed to register in the first place.
In recent weeks, opponents of voter ID laws have escalated their attacks on the measures by claiming the common sense requirement that a voter be able to identify him or herself at the polls is a new form of Jim Crow. But because the measure applies equally to everyone and the Supreme Court has ruled such laws are constitutional, their charges have more to do with inciting racial discord than actually affirming the right to vote. At the same time, others are seeking to undermine the entire premise of voter ID advocates by claiming there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States. That’s the conceit of a piece in the Daily Beast today that repeats the charge made by liberal and Democratic foes of the laws that there is no evidence of voter fraud going on anywhere in the country.
But on the same day the Daily Beast piece was published, evidence surfaced that union officials in Wisconsin have been subpoenaed in an investigation of, you guessed it, voter fraud. As the Washington Free Beacon reports, the DA’s office demanded the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) hand over records that relate to the conduct of their officials who may have voted in the city earlier this year while using a Marriott hotel as a residence and using out of state IDs. The Wisconsin legislature passed a photo ID law, but state courts have blocked its enforcement, so the lack of such a requirement and a same day registration process makes it easy for anyone, including those who aren’t legally qualified to vote there, to cast a ballot. All of which makes a good argument for exactly the laws liberals tell us are not only racist but also unnecessary.
The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson gets on his favorite hobbyhorse today when he claims again in his column that voter ID laws are nothing more than a manifestation of racism. But in doing so, he demonstrates either his ignorance or his partisanship. Robinson and other liberals have long alleged that Republican support for laws intended to curb voter fraud are simply a way of suppressing the black vote for Democrats. To back this up, he seized on a statement made by Mike Turzai, the Republican Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, in which he said this about the state voter ID law passed by the GOP last year: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.” Robinson represents this comment as giving away the game in which suppression of the black vote will steal Pennsylvania for the GOP as many inner city blacks don’t have driver’s licenses or a photo ID to present at the polls.
Robinson doesn’t mention that any voter can get a free photo ID from the state if they ask for one. But his recitation of statistics about those who don’t already have proof of identity leaves out a far more significant number that influenced the Pennsylvania legislature to pass the bill: 100 percent. That’s the percentage of registered voters who voted at a number of Philadelphia voter precincts in the last several elections. Indeed, as Republicans in the state capital pointed out during the debate about the voter ID law, in many parts of Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold, voter turnout in contested elections routinely exceeds 100 percent of registered voters. But because the Democrats control the local elections board that supervises voting in the city, there is no accountability for this obvious fraud. If it is enforced, the voter ID law may make this rather flagrant method of cheating a bit more difficult this year.
A few days ago, I noted the irony in the unfolding controversy involving the results from the New York Democratic primary. At a time when Democrats around the country, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have been vociferously claiming there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States and that efforts to uphold the integrity of elections are a form of racism, the senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus appears to have engaged in a variety of forms of fraud himself. The latest results from the June 26 election show Rep. Charles Rangel holding a more than 900-vote edge on challenger Adriano Espaillat. But Espaillat is screaming bloody murder over the way Rangel’s party establishment followers may have cooked the results.
Rangel’s people disqualified hundreds of ballots from presumed supporters of Espaillat as well as a number of other dirty tricks aimed at keeping the ethically challenged incumbent in office. But the latest twist shows the brazen nature of the plot to commit fraud. According to the New York Daily News, a few days before, city election workers engaged in some slippery manipulations that helped Rangel:
Timothy Gay, the deputy chief clerk for Manhattan’s Board of Elections — and the person currently supervising the count of the votes in the Manhattan part of the 13th Congressional District — held a meeting in Harlem with key Rangel campaign operatives, and with district leaders supporting Rangel.
Asked about the meeting, Gay said he attended at the request of state Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic chairman, to provide “district leaders with lists of their Democratic inspectors assigned to their specific districts” and to “discuss election matters in general.”
So why did candidate Rangel’s campaign staffers attend, while no Democratic district leaders who supported Espaillat were invited?
Americans support a photo ID voting requirement, and by a pretty definitive margin, according to a Rasmussen poll out today. While liberals have downplayed the impact of voter fraud and warned that photo ID requirements will disenfranchise minority voters, 73 percent of the voting public says that these laws are not discriminatory:
Despite his insistence that voter fraud is not a serious problem, Attorney General Eric Holder was embarrassed last week when a video surfaced of someone illegally obtaining a ballot to vote under Holder’s name in his home precinct in Washington, D.C. Most voters consider voter fraud a problem in America today and continue to overwhelmingly support laws requiring people to show photo identification before being allowed to vote.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 64 percent of Likely U.S. Voters rate voter fraud at least a somewhat serious problem in the United States today, and just 24 percent disagree. This includes 35 percent who consider it a Very Serious problem and seven percent who view it as Not At All Serious. Twelve percent are undecided.
The latest video out by James O’Keefe is a powerful argument for voter ID laws, with a cameo from Eric Holder (actually his would-be voting impersonator). As a requisite disclaimer, O’Keefe has been accused of selectively editing videos in the past, but this one appears to include the full conversation.
The question is whether anyone should really care. Yes, if you wanted to, you could risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to vote for someone else, but we’re not sure why you would, since a single vote, or even a few votes, will never make a difference. (Okay, almost never.) Could a group of hundreds or thousands of fraudsters be mobilized to go around to different polling stations on election day and vote for one particular candidate or issue, possibly altering the outcome of an election? It would be difficult to organize surreptitiously, but sure, it’s probably doable. But it has never happened.
That’s like the government saying it’s pointless for bars to check IDs, because underage drinkers will face a hefty fine if they’re caught. The punishment becomes less of a deterrent if there’s a very high probability of getting away with the crime.