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Topic: voter ID

Voting Rights and Proof of Citizenship

Liberals are expressing outrage today about the court ruling that a federal agency is required to help Kansas and Arizona ensure that those registering to vote are citizens. The case decided in a U.S. district court in Wichita revolved around the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s decision to deny the requests from the two states that proof of citizenship be added to a national voter registration form when distributed in Kansas and Arizona. Judge Eric F. Melgren rightly ruled that the agency had no authority to tell the states their requests were invalid. He noted that the decision by the election commission to deny the states’ requests was “unlawful and in excess of its statutory authority.” This is a phrase that could well be applied to a great many other Obama administration decisions and executive orders.

In its ruling on Arizona’s controversial immigration law last year, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that only Congress could determine the rules for voting in federal elections. But significantly, it also determined that states had the right to demand proof of citizenship in state and local elections. The federal registration form only asks those registering to affirm that they are citizens. Kansas and Arizona want those seeking to vote to prove it and unless a higher court overrules Melgren, that principle has upheld.

While this case is being largely viewed as part of the ongoing debate about illegal immigration, it should also be understood as integral to the equally contentious question of whether states may require potential voters to produce photo ID. As such, liberals and Democrats are worried that the decision will impact this year’s election. But those arguing against the ruling need to answer the same question that voter ID opponents do their best to avoid: what is wrong, let alone illegal, about asking a voter to produce proof of their identity?

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Liberals are expressing outrage today about the court ruling that a federal agency is required to help Kansas and Arizona ensure that those registering to vote are citizens. The case decided in a U.S. district court in Wichita revolved around the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s decision to deny the requests from the two states that proof of citizenship be added to a national voter registration form when distributed in Kansas and Arizona. Judge Eric F. Melgren rightly ruled that the agency had no authority to tell the states their requests were invalid. He noted that the decision by the election commission to deny the states’ requests was “unlawful and in excess of its statutory authority.” This is a phrase that could well be applied to a great many other Obama administration decisions and executive orders.

In its ruling on Arizona’s controversial immigration law last year, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that only Congress could determine the rules for voting in federal elections. But significantly, it also determined that states had the right to demand proof of citizenship in state and local elections. The federal registration form only asks those registering to affirm that they are citizens. Kansas and Arizona want those seeking to vote to prove it and unless a higher court overrules Melgren, that principle has upheld.

While this case is being largely viewed as part of the ongoing debate about illegal immigration, it should also be understood as integral to the equally contentious question of whether states may require potential voters to produce photo ID. As such, liberals and Democrats are worried that the decision will impact this year’s election. But those arguing against the ruling need to answer the same question that voter ID opponents do their best to avoid: what is wrong, let alone illegal, about asking a voter to produce proof of their identity?

The answer from the left is twofold. On the one hand, they continue to assert that there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States. On the other, they claim that requiring voter ID and now proof of citizenship disproportionately affects the poor, the elderly, and all those who might not have proper identification even though they are U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote.

Though widely repeated, the first claim is preposterous. Voter fraud is hard to detect (especially in districts where the legal authorities are affiliated with parties that hope to benefit from illegal votes). Assuming that the lack of prosecutions for such crimes is due to its nonexistence is a proposition that requires us to forget everything we know about American political history as well as human nature. Protecting the integrity of the vote is vital to the defense of democracy. Treating measures designed to ensure that only those who are registered or citizens are voting as political ploys rather than reasonable measures supported by the vast majority of Americans is absurd.

It is true that voter ID or proof of citizenship might inconvenience some legal voters. But states that have passed such laws also have provided citizens with means of obtaining alternatives to driver’s licenses or lost passports. The point is, anyone who is entitled to vote and wants to can almost always find a way to do so legally.

Voting should not be made onerous, but there is something slightly disingenuous about the arguments claiming that a requirement for a voter ID or proof of citizenship is a racist plot to deny the franchise to minority groups. Polls have consistently shown that the vast majority of Americans, including minorities, think there is nothing unreasonable about being asked to produce the same kind of ID that is required to purchase prescriptions, cigarettes, beer, perform the simplest bank transaction, or board an airplane when doing something that is arguably a lot more important, like voting.

There’s little doubt that most Americans are just as dubious about the idea that proof of citizenship is a minor detail that should be ignored by authorities in charge of voting. Whatever your opinion about immigration reform or the rights of illegals, if Democrats think they can rally public opinion around the notion that the government should not interfere with non-citizens attempting to vote, they are taking a stance that is as indefensible as it is politically unpopular. A state that is indifferent to non-citizens who commit fraud to vote in effect denies legal voters meaningful exercise of the franchise/right to vote.

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Are You Sure There’s No Voter Fraud?

As I wrote earlier this month, the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to sue to stop Texas’s voter ID law has little to do with an attempt to prevent actual discrimination. The outcry from the administration on the voter ID issue as well as the manufactured outrage about the Supreme Court’s decision upholding but modifying the Voting Rights Act is predicated on the false idea that these measures are a new version of discriminatory Jim Crow laws. Given the night-and-day difference between the world of Jim Crow that drew Americans to the 1963 March on Washington and the America of 2013, this is an obvious effort to both revive flagging interest in civil-rights organizations and to brand President Obama’s critics as racists. But opponents of voter ID do have one seemingly rational argument: the problem that voter ID laws seek to solve—preserving the integrity of the vote—is imaginary. To that end, they have told us ad nauseum that voter fraud does not exist in the United States.

The assumption that voter fraud is nonexistent requires us to not only ignore most of American political history; it also obligates us to forget everything we know about human nature. Given that photo ID is now required for virtually every sort of transaction or service, most Americans rightly see it as a commonsense measure. But discussions about shady elections don’t require us to explore the distant past. Examples abound in our own day that place the desire to tighten up new rules that more or less allow anyone to show up on Election Day without proof of their identity or having previously registered, or to vote early or get an absentee ballot in a different context than Holder’s specious arguments about Jim Crow. One such comes from the bankrupt city of Detroit, where the August 6 primary is still unresolved due to the fact that more than 20,000 write-in votes are currently in dispute and may or may not be counted depending on the decisions of the courts. Fraud has not yet been proved and may not be directly related to false identity, but this latest instance of electoral hijinks illustrates what happens when results are called into question by shady practices.

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As I wrote earlier this month, the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to sue to stop Texas’s voter ID law has little to do with an attempt to prevent actual discrimination. The outcry from the administration on the voter ID issue as well as the manufactured outrage about the Supreme Court’s decision upholding but modifying the Voting Rights Act is predicated on the false idea that these measures are a new version of discriminatory Jim Crow laws. Given the night-and-day difference between the world of Jim Crow that drew Americans to the 1963 March on Washington and the America of 2013, this is an obvious effort to both revive flagging interest in civil-rights organizations and to brand President Obama’s critics as racists. But opponents of voter ID do have one seemingly rational argument: the problem that voter ID laws seek to solve—preserving the integrity of the vote—is imaginary. To that end, they have told us ad nauseum that voter fraud does not exist in the United States.

The assumption that voter fraud is nonexistent requires us to not only ignore most of American political history; it also obligates us to forget everything we know about human nature. Given that photo ID is now required for virtually every sort of transaction or service, most Americans rightly see it as a commonsense measure. But discussions about shady elections don’t require us to explore the distant past. Examples abound in our own day that place the desire to tighten up new rules that more or less allow anyone to show up on Election Day without proof of their identity or having previously registered, or to vote early or get an absentee ballot in a different context than Holder’s specious arguments about Jim Crow. One such comes from the bankrupt city of Detroit, where the August 6 primary is still unresolved due to the fact that more than 20,000 write-in votes are currently in dispute and may or may not be counted depending on the decisions of the courts. Fraud has not yet been proved and may not be directly related to false identity, but this latest instance of electoral hijinks illustrates what happens when results are called into question by shady practices.

The struggle to be the top official in an insolvent city whose government has been taken over the state is not the most compelling political fight of the year. But regardless of the office’s value, those who voted deserve to have their ballots counted. Indeed, though few if any Americans are denied the right to vote today the way many were prevented from going to the polls under Jim Crow, a crooked election is, in effect, one that denies the franchise to everyone.

Regardless of whether those who showed up to cast write-ins did so legally or of the political motivations of those who threw those ballots out due to technicalities, the nationwide drive to police elections is based in fact, not prejudice. In an era when safeguards against fraud have been thrown out willy-nilly in order to make it easier to vote via early voting, liberal granting of absentee ballots, and same-day registration, it has become almost impossible to guarantee the integrity of the results. To think that politicians and parties do not try to take advantage of this situation is hopelessly naïve. Reforming this situation requires states to make sure that those who vote are who they say they are and that regulations that prevent safeguards from being put in place are re-written to ensure the integrity of the process.

No matter who gets the dubious honor of running Detroit, voters there have a right to know their votes are counted and not being cancelled out by fraud of any kind. The same is true in Texas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and every other state that has attempted to deal with this mess. Instead of crying racism, those entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that voting rights are protected should be seeking to uphold the obligation of the state to stop cheating. 

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Voter Fraud is Threat to Clear Outcome

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.

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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.

But the problem here is more than just the natural distrust between the parties and a willingness to see any close loss as the result of dirty tricks. Conservative efforts to monitor vote fraud have come in for heavy criticism from the media as thinly veiled attempts to suppress the votes of minorities inclined to vote for the Democrats. In particular, the True the Vote group has been lambasted as nothing more than organized vote suppression. Yet the problem with that assumption is the evidence that Democrats are doing more than cutting corners when it comes to preparing for the large turnout they need on Election Day to re-elect President Obama. As the Times notes:

Still, the Republicans have had legitimate complaints, election officials say. Groups associated with the Democrats have sometimes been overly aggressive in voter registration, paying people for each voter registered or offering bonuses for larger numbers of registrations. This has led to fraud. Ms. Platten, the Democratic county elections board director, said she had seen multiple registrations for the same person whose Social Security number had been shifted by one digit.

If this is a common practice in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, does anyone think these Cleveland Democrats are doing something that their counterparts in Philadelphia or any of a number of other places haven’t thought of too?

Liberals have spent most of the last year endlessly telling us that there is no such thing as voter fraud in the United States and that Republicans who pushed for voter ID laws were racists. But the reality of election cheating is something to keep in mind next week when you hear about lawyers in Ohio petitioning courts to keep polls open late in Democratic districts after similarly pushing to allow those areas more early voting opportunities than other parts of the state.

It should be taken as a given that both sides will be ready to muddy the waters with legal challenges in any state where the vote is close. With 11 states rated as tossups on the Real Clear Politics Electoral College Map (less than 5 percent aggregate lead for either candidate in the polls) that leaves open the possibility that not only will we lack a clear outcome next week, but that the election could be mired in the courts next month.

No matter who ultimately wins the presidency, there are some conclusions that both sides, as well as those not immersed in partisanship, should draw from this impending mess.

One is that vote fraud is a serious issue. The impulse to vote the graveyards as well as to falsify the ballots of the living is an old American tradition. Those who ask us to believe that it is either rare or nonexistent are more or less demanding that we ignore everything we know about American political history as well as human nature. These partisan disputes could be minimized if more states adopted laws that made it harder to cheat as well as to ensure that the person showing up at the voting booth is the same one registered. Democrats who resist these laws are opening themselves up to justified suspicion that their true aim is to make it easier for their party to game the results.

Another is that states should devote greater efforts to promoting legal voter registration. So long as this remains largely the preserve of the parties, the Ohio example, in which one Social Security number is used to create a number of fictitious or illegal voters, will remain the rule rather than the exception. Worry about suppression of minority voters could also be alleviated.

Third, the ability of parties to control the election process through rules in some localities must be abolished. The city of Philadelphia’s system, which allows an open partisan to run the Elections Commission — something that makes it easier for Democrats there to act with impunity every Election Day and makes Republicans in the rest of the state suspect their opponents can come up with whatever numbers they need to win — helped motivate the passage of a voter ID law even though courts have ensured it won’t be enforced.

We will never overcome the distrust of the parties for each other, and close elections are always going to produce anger and lawsuits, as well as undermine the legitimacy of the process. But if more states adopted reasonable laws aimed at curbing fraud, it will be easier to minimize the damage the next time the system cracks up.

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Judge Upholds, Delays Voter ID Law in PA

This isn’t a total victory for proponents of the voter ID law, but it is a very positive sign. While the judge upheld the Pennsylvania law requiring voters to show identification at the voting booths today, part of the law will be postponed until after this election:

A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge has ruled that the state’s controversial new voter ID law will stand, but voters without a valid picture ID card will still be able to cast their vote and have it counted this November.

Judge Robert Simpson has effectively decided to postpone part of the law.   Following his ruling, voters will still be asked for a valid voter ID at the poll.  But if they don’t have it, they will still be able to cast their vote in the usual manner.

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This isn’t a total victory for proponents of the voter ID law, but it is a very positive sign. While the judge upheld the Pennsylvania law requiring voters to show identification at the voting booths today, part of the law will be postponed until after this election:

A Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judge has ruled that the state’s controversial new voter ID law will stand, but voters without a valid picture ID card will still be able to cast their vote and have it counted this November.

Judge Robert Simpson has effectively decided to postpone part of the law.   Following his ruling, voters will still be asked for a valid voter ID at the poll.  But if they don’t have it, they will still be able to cast their vote in the usual manner.

Voters will be asked to show ID, but they will not be turned away if they don’t have one, at least for the upcoming presidential election. Heritage’s resident voting law expert Hans von Spakovsky notes that there was no permanent injunction issued, and the partial postponement will only impact this election. Opponents of the voter ID law can still appeal — and I imagine they will — but it’s a setback for their argument that the law itself is unconstitutional.

While many headlines spin this temporary injunction as a win for voter ID opponents, that’s actually not the case in the long-term. At the Heritage blog, von Spakovsky writes:

While this may seem to be a win for opponents of common-sense election reform efforts like voter ID, it is actually a loss. Pennsylvania was handicapped in implementing its new law by the shortness of time remaining before the election. The court simply found that the state could not effectively implement the ID requirement in only a month. The law is still in place and remains valid.

Critics of voter ID laws claim that they’re going to be used to disenfranchise voters in the upcoming election, in a sinister plot to flip the election in Mitt Romney’s favor. In fact, those who support voter ID laws do so for sensible reasons. Voting integrity is just as critical as voting access, and if someone is able to cast a ballot illegally, that cancels out the choice of a legal voter. Asking for people to present valid IDs at the polls is a simple and reasonable requirement.

The judge in this case reasoned that some voters might not have enough time to obtain identification before the upcoming election — that’s a legitimate argument. But to argue the law is unconstitutional and should never be implemented is ridiculous. If low-income people are less likely to have valid identification, the emphasis should be on helping them obtain IDs, not blocking safeguards at voting booths.

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No Vote Fraud? New Twist in Rangel “Win”

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?

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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?

The answer to that question is obvious. The chutzpah displayed here is breathtaking. The New York Democratic Party wasn’t content to just steal the election for Rangel; they actually held a meeting with the officials charged with ensuring a fair result to make sure it was crooked. As the News concludes:

Everyone knew the entire Democratic Party leadership of the Bronx and Manhattan was behind Rangel. But it is now clear that the Board of Elections had a horse in the race, too, which is why any count the board produces needs to be checked — and then double-checked.

But, of course, the problem of voter fraud, whether committed by individuals acting at the behest of campaigns or efforts to alter the results by officials, is real. Politicians and their supporters have been trying to steal elections in the United States since before there was a United States. Cheating takes place in the country as well as urban settings. Republicans have done it and so have Democrats. And you can be sure that in any place where those charged with monitoring the vote are in the pocket of those running for office the results cannot be trusted.

That is why all efforts to ensure the integrity of the vote, be it by requiring voter ID or measures seeking to prevent the kind of fraud practiced by Rangel’s supporters is not only not racist, it is absolutely necessary to protect American democracy.

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