Steps to protect integrity of elections are common sense

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

Steps to protect integrity of elections are common sense

Oct 1, 2013 2 min read
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative Manager, Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues—including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.
"Requiring identification at the polling place is a reasonable request to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our elections," said Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee when he signed his state's voter ID law in 2011. The Ocean State joined Georgia, Indiana and Florida in passing a common-sense requirement that voters present valid identification before casting their ballots.

Of course, that doesn't fit the racial politics of politicians such as Hillary Clinton who are trying to scare voters into thinking that laws intended to protect the security of elections are some evil plot to keep them out of the polls and bring back Jim Crow. But Americans know how foolish that claim is. They need photo ID in everyday life for everything from buying a beer to checking into a hotel or boarding an airplane, filling a prescription or seeing a doctor, getting a marriage license or applying for many forms of public assistance.

That is why polling shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans from all racial, ethnic and political backgrounds agree it's the right thing to do. As Rhode Island state Sen. Harold Metts, an African-American legislator who co-sponsored his state's voter ID law, said, "In this day and age, very few adults lack one of the forms of identification that will be accepted, and the rare person who does can get a free voter ID card."

Voter ID can prevent impersonation fraud, voting under fictitious voter registrations, double voting by individuals registered in more than one state, and voting by undocumented immigrants. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized that we have a long history of election fraud in this country when it upheld Indiana's voter ID law in 2008.

The claim that voter ID "suppresses" the turnout of minority voters is refuted by actual election results in states such as Georgia and Indiana, whose ID laws have been in effect since the 2008 elections. In fact, minority turnout increased more dramatically in Georgia and Indiana with voter ID than it did in some states without photo ID in the 2008 and 2010 elections. A May report by the Census Bureau on the November 2012 election showed that blacks reported voting at higher rates than whites in Georgia and Indiana.

Lawsuits against those voter ID laws were thrown out by the courts because, as an Indiana federal district court judge observed, "Despite apocalyptic assertions of wholesale voter disenfranchisement," opponents could not find any registered voters who would be prevented from voting. In Georgia, the NAACP could not produce a single person who would be unable to vote because of the ID requirement.

South Carolina defeated the U.S. Justice Department's false claim in court last year that its voter ID law was discriminatory. The law went into effect with no problems — the same result as in every state that has implemented voter ID despite the hysterical claims of critics. Florida knows from its own experience with voter ID that such a requirement does not pose a problem for legitimate voters.

But Florida's long history of election fraud — including the 1997 Miami mayor's race, which was thrown out because of massive absentee-ballot fraud, or the current investigation of the former chief of staff for Rep. Joe Garcia over fraudulent absentee ballots — shows that the state should also require voter ID for absentee ballots, as Kansas does. It was in a 1998 report on extensive absentee-ballot fraud across the state that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement accurately called absentee ballots "the tool of choice" of ballot thieves.

It is time for lawmakers in every state to do the right thing — pass voter ID laws that protect the integrity of that precious right. And time for opponents to stop scaring voters with historically preposterous claims about Jim Crow.

- Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former member of the Federal Election Commission.

Originally appeared in Orlando Sentinel