Securing the Integrity of Our Elections

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

Securing the Integrity of Our Elections

Jul 20th, 2011 2 min read
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues – including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.

Laws requiring voters to present valid identification before casting their ballots are growing in popularity. Six states -Georgia, Indiana, Texas, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Kansas - have recently passed voter ID laws, and more have them under consideration.

Opponents of these laws have raised absurd objections, equating passage with the reimposition of Jim Crow and asserting that the real motive is to suppress voter turnout. Such rancorous attacks defy common sense and the views of the American people. Requiring voters to authenticate their identity is necessary to ensure the integrity and security of our election process.

Voter ID can help prevent impersonation fraud at the polls, voting under fictitious voter registrations, double voting by individuals registered in more than one state and voting by illegal aliens. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized when it upheld Indiana’s voter ID law in 2008, “flagrant examples of such fraud have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists.”

That opinion was written by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Though one of the most liberal members of the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens had practiced law in Chicago before serving on the court. Small wonder he found the claim that voter fraud does not exist to be absurd.

States pass voter ID laws not just to deter and detect voter fraud, but also so that their citizens can be confident in the integrity of their elections. Despite what critics like Jesse Jackson say, voter ID is supported by the vast majority of the American people - and that support crosses all ethnic, racial and party lines. It is not “Jim Crow” and it is not “voter suppression.”

Numerous studies have shown that requiring an ID to vote does not depress turnout. Georgia and Indiana have had several elections since they implemented voter ID laws. Turnout has gone up in those states, including the turnout of minority voters. In fact, turnout in the 2008 presidential election (the first election held after their photo ID laws went into effect) increased more dramatically in Georgia and Indiana than they did in some states without photo ID.

Black voter turnout increased in Georgia not only in the presidential election (compared to the 2004 race when there was no photo ID law), but also in the 2010 midterm election (compared to the previous midterm). As Georgia’s Secretary of State noted recently, turnout in the 2010 election “among African Americans outpaced the growth of that population’s pool of registered voters by more than 20 percentage points.”

Indiana experienced similar results. In the 2008 election, turnout among Democrats increased by 8.32 percentage points from 2004 when there was no voter ID law. It was the largest increase in Democratic turnout of any state in the nation. In 2010, Indiana had a “large and impressive” increase in black turnout. According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, “the black share of the state vote was higher in 2010 than it was in 2008, a banner year for black turnout.”

Opponents raised the specious “mass disfranchisement” claim in lawsuits filed against the Georgia and Indiana laws. The courts threw out the claims. As an Indiana federal district court observed, “*espite apocalyptic assertions of wholesale voter disenfranchisement, Plaintiffs have produced not a single piece of evidence of any identifiable registered voter who would be prevented from voting.” The NAACP, a plaintiff in the Georgia case, could not find a single member who would be unable to vote because of the ID requirement.

As the Supreme Court correctly observed, fraud can change the outcome of close elections. Without voter ID, election officials have no way to prevent unscrupulous individuals from casting fraudulent ballots. For those trying to defend America’s electoral integrity, the stakes are high. We have an obligation and a duty to secure our elections so that voters can choose their representatives. To do otherwise, is to risk the future of our republic.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

First appeared in The Washington Times