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.
That voter fraud and other shenanigans might have taken place in the district which stretches from Harlem to The Bronx will surprise no one familiar with the grand traditions of New York politics. Nor is there anything particularly innovative about the allies of an establishment figure like Rangel working within the system to make it more difficult for a challenger to take him on.
Given the way these things generally work in New York, we may never know whether Espaillat actually beat Rangel. Nor can we be sure whether the voters allegedly turned away at the polls were really ineligible (in which case Espaillat’s camp was trying to game the results). But what we do know is that wherever politicians and their friends are tempted to cheat, that is exactly what they will do. The stakes involved in such races are high, and anyone who assumes Rangel or any other entrenched officeholder will not stoop to twist, bend or otherwise mutilate the results in order to hang on knows nothing about American political history or politicians.
All of which is a reminder of why voter integrity measures are necessary. Moreover, the fact that Rangel’s allies were prepared to challenge the identity of potential votes for Espaillat not only shows why such measures are reasonable, it also illustrates why greater attention to voter fraud–no matter who might be doing it–is vital. That a race involving the senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus should prove this point isn’t just a form of poetic justice. It also shows just how transparently fraudulent the claims made by Democrats against voter ID laws have been.