Liberals are jumping all over Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s comment yesterday during an oral hearing in which he asked whether continuing the special enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act in some states was a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Many, including his court colleague Justice Sonia Sotomayor, seemed to interpret it as questioning whether the right to vote is itself a “racial entitlement.” For his pains, Scalia was branded a racist. What is left of the aging remnants of the once-vital civil rights movement are hoping that outrage about that remark can galvanize public pressure not just for the continuation of the Voting Rights Act as it currently stands, but against both voter integrity laws and the system of racial majority districts.
The problem with the critique of Scalia is pretty much the same as that with the defense of the legal status quo. What is at stake in this debate and the legal case in question–Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder–is not the right to vote, which Scalia supports as much as any liberal. There is no evidence that anyone in Shelby County is trying to reinstate Jim Crow laws or prevent African Americans or other minorities from exercising their constitutionally protected right to cast a ballot. Nor is there any evidence that this is true anywhere else in the states and counties that remain under direct federal supervision as a result of the 1965 law. The entitlement in question is rather the ability of the Justice Department to act as a national elections commission in certain areas that were once strongholds of racial hatred, even though the country has changed markedly in the last half century. Instead of promoting the false charge that Scalia is a segregationist, the focus should be on who benefits from the continuation of Section Five of the Act. The answer is: a class of political elites that benefit from the creation of racial majority districts.
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.
One of the sidebars to the story about the passage of the voter ID law in Pennsylvania was the fact that most of the state’s Republicans think Democrats, particularly those in Philadelphia, cheat with impunity. Democrats claim this is all nonsense, but those who know the city’s political history understand that this is one place where machine politics is not something confined to the history books. That law won’t be enforced this year as a result of a court ruling that more time is needed to prepare voters. However, suspicion that Democrats are up to no good lingers and a partisan email blast from the city official who supervises elections isn’t helping matters.
Stephanie Singer is the chairman of the City Commission, the body that supervises, among other things, Philadelphia’s Board of Elections. In a normal city where such an office is a non-partisan or civil service post, it would be inconceivable that the person who is in charge of ensuring a fair vote would be involved in partisan politics, but when it comes to civics or ethics, Philadelphia remains mired in the bad old days of machine politics. Therefore, when the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Singer sent out an email blast urging citizens to vote to re-elect Barack Obama, the city of Brotherly Love merely shrugged. That Singer also went on in the email to claim that Judaism demands its adherents vote for the Democrats illustrates the way Jewish liberals have attempted to politicize their faith. But the willingness of the city to accept a situation where the elections commissioner is a rabid partisan tells us a lot about why there is so much distrust in Pennsylvania about the honesty of the elections system in the state’s largest city.
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.
Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama sounded a battle cry at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner when she said protecting the right to vote is the nation’s most important civil rights issue. If that were true, that would mean there no credible civil rights concerns in the country. What Obama was talking about was the effort by Democrats to prevent the implementation of laws requiring voters to present a photo ID when casting their ballots. The common sense measure has the support of the overwhelming majority of Americans. They understand that cheating is baked into the DNA of our political parties and see nothing unreasonable about requiring someone to do the same thing as when they wish to board a plane, a train, open a bank account or buy a beer or a cigarette: prove they are who they say there are. Mrs. Obama’s attempt to demagogue this issue is the backdrop for false liberal arguments that voter ID legislation is the modern version of the Jim Crow laws of the segregation era. Those claims are currently being adjudicated in Pennsylvania, where a judge has until Tuesday to decide whether the state’s voter ID law should be thrown out.
In August, Commonwealth Court Judge Robert E. Simpson, Jr. threw out the challenge when he said that while he was sympathetic to those who claimed they had difficulty acquiring a photo ID, there was no proof of disenfranchisement. That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now kicked the case back to him and hearings were again held this week to determine whether the state is acting appropriately. Though the state has loosened the already lenient requirements to get a state card, the judge hinted that he might give in to pressure from liberal groups and grant an injunction to block its implementation. If so, it will undermine attempts to ensure voter integrity.
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.
Some Republicans may be shocked and confused that Democrats are seizing on any mention of welfare or immigration or any other legitimate political issue that can be described as racism. They shouldn’t be. Democrats have been howling about “coded language” and “dog whistles” all year, as well as making race-based complaints about voter ID laws. But lately they have become less subtle as Vice President Joe Biden’s threat that Republicans want to “put y’all back in chains” to a mostly black audience indicated. The hysteria on the left on this point has become particularly intense this week, as the Republican National Convention has served as a convenient target for commentators like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who have become nearly unhinged trying to prove that Republicans are appealing to racism.
But if anyone is determined to keep race on the minds of Americans it is the Democrats. The obsessive search for hidden racism in Republican rhetoric isn’t merely because, as Mickey Kaus noted today on his blog, they “simply have race on the brain.” It’s because waving the bloody shirt of the fight against segregation is their only way of recapturing the magic of 2008, in which Americans took pride in voting for Barack Obama because doing so was a way to take part in a historic achievement. After four years of presidential futility, it’s not possible to make voters buy into another round of “hope and change.” But it is still possible to make independents and wavering Democrats think voting Republican will undo the progress that Obama’s election signaled.
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.
In the last year as Democrats have tried to oppose all efforts to ensure the integrity of the vote in the fall election, they have derided voter ID laws as not only racist in motivation but also unnecessary. Though the basic proposition that anyone who shows up at the polls ought to be able to prove they are who they say they are and are registered voters seems like common sense, liberals have claimed such measures are utterly superfluous because voter fraud is not a problem in the United States. And because there is no problem to be fixed, any effort that might stop those not qualified to vote from casting ballots is, they claim, rooted in prejudice and aimed at “suppressing” the minority vote. One would think that the long history of election fraud in this country which dates back to the colonial era and was a staple of machine politics in the 20th century would have caused Democrats to stop making such weak claims. But they are undaunted and have even gone so far as to assert that efforts to hold Attorney General Eric Holder accountable for his failures and stonewalling in the Fast and Furious scandal are evidence of the Republicans’ desire to get back at him for opposing voter ID laws.
But in case the Democrats needed a reminder about why voter integrity laws are necessary, they have just gotten one from a stalwart of the Congressional Black Caucus and a leading opponent of such measures. Charles Rangel’s “victory” in the Democratic primary in which he sought to ensure for himself a 22nd consecutive term in Congress from New York is being disputed by his opponent, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, who claims what took place last week was a “phantom election” in which Board of Elections officials may have “hidden” votes. Ironically, Espaillat also claims that not only is the vote count in question but that Rangel’s forces may have suppressed the Hispanic vote by reassigning bilingual poll watchers and turning some voters away by requesting they identify themselves.
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.
The effort to derail laws intended to prevent voter fraud is under attack from Democrats who allege the whole idea of asking someone to present a photo ID when voting is a Republican plot. But the allegations of voter suppression got a boost today from the New York Timesin a story that claims registrations of new voters is way down in Florida where such a law was passed last year. According to the Times, the law hasn’t just scared away those who lack a drivers’ license but also is preventing the League of Women Voters as well as other groups like Rock the Vote from doing their civic duty and getting more people to register.
But while the law may not be applied flawlessly, the idea that holding third party groups liable for fraud is an attempt to disenfranchise the poor is a leap of logic that is not sustained by any evidence. Even more to the point, the seemingly damning evidence that the law is resulting in fewer new voters this year proves nothing. Just as important, one pertinent question continues to go unasked whenever voter integrity laws are challenged: why are liberals so appalled about a reform of the system that is set up only to disenfranchise those attempted to cast fraudulent ballots?
The liberal war on voter integrity has now morphed from partisan hypocrisy to parody. It is bad enough for the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the media to falsely brand the effort by various states to require citizens to present a picture ID when they go to vote as a revival of Jim Crow laws. But the NAACP has reduced that controversy to satire by asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to weigh in on the matter at an upcoming conference on minority rights in Geneva, Switzerland.
This is the same UN Council that is comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The idea that Americans would ask a group whose members are countries that not only restrict voting rights but lack even the façade of democratic rule to take a stand on U.S. laws is beyond absurd. It seems never to have occurred to the partisans at the NAACP that there is something humorous about regimes that deny all of their citizens any say in governance standing in judgment on an actual working democracy. The arguments arrayed against voter ID laws by the Obama administration and those seeking to create a race issue where none exists are already weak. But by involving the UN, the NAACP has exposed itself to some well-earned scorn.
To no one’s surprise, the Department of Justice has formally blocked the state of Texas from enforcing its law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ claims the law will have a disproportionate impact on Hispanics, which allows the federal government to spike the measure before it can be put into effect. The argument is that because Hispanics are 46.5 to 120 percent (depending on which statistics you believe) less likely to have a driver’s license or some other form of photo ID, the law is inherently discriminatory. That sounds pretty bad, but once you read what those numbers actually mean, the argument is not quite as clear cut.
Many of the liberal claims that the push for voter ID laws constitutes a GOP “war on voting” seem to be based on the assumption that the lack of photo ID is quite common. Yet even in Texas, the DOJ acknowledges that 93.7 percent of Hispanics have such documentation as opposed to 95.7 percent of non-Hispanics. That is a not-inconsiderable number, but it is difficult to pretend this amounts to disenfranchising Hispanics or any other sector of the population. Yet rather than seek to aid the state’s offer of a free ID to anyone who wants one, the Obama administration prefers to use its power under the Civil Rights Act to prevent the passage of what is merely a common-sense measure to prevent voter fraud. In doing so, it appears they are not so much defending the disadvantaged but seeking to play politics on a good government measure. The fact that they are not also claiming discrimination against African-Americans raises other questions about both the numbers and the situation on the ground in Texas.