Contrary to the beliefs of critics like the New York Times, impersonation fraud does exist. It is true that direct evidence of such fraud is hard to come by, but for a simple reason: Election officials cannot discover an impersonation if they are denied the very tool needed to detect it, an identification requirement. Justice Stevens, however, pointed out that “flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists.”
The New York Times should have checked its own archives for stories of a 1984 grand-jury report finding extensive impersonation fraud in Democratic primary elections in Brooklyn between 1968 and 1982 affecting races for the U.S. Congress and the New York State legislature. This successful 14-year conspiracy included not only the forgery of fictitious voter-registration cards, but also the recruitment of crews who cast multiple votes in person using those fictitious names as well as the names of deceased, moved, and newly registered voters. Thousands of fraudulent votes were cast in numerous elections, something that would not have happened with a photo-ID requirement.
Impersonation fraud is not just part of a bygone era. Last June, a man who tried to vote under the name of another registered voter in Hoboken, New Jersey admitted to the police after he was challenged by the local zoning board president that a group of homeless men had been paid $10 each to vote in the names of other voters. In 2007, the Department of Justice won a judgment in Noxubee, Mississippi, against a Tammany Hall-type political machine run by the local Democratic-party chief. One of the witnesses testified that he saw the party official telling an individual to go into a poll and use any name to vote because no one was going to question her identity — Mississippi has no ID requirement.
The critics also miss the fact that requiring government-issued photo ID’s safeguards against more than just impersonation fraud. During recent elections, thousands of fraudulent voter-registration forms were submitted all over the country, and media investigations have found thousands of individuals registered in more than one state. Without ID requirements, bogus votes can be cast based on fictitious voter registrations or multiple registrations (or by illegal aliens). On the very day the Indiana lawsuit was argued before the Supreme Court, a newspaper discovered that an Indiana voter highlighted by the League of Women Voters was also registered to vote in Florida, where she owns a second home. She tried to use her Florida driver’s license to vote — clear evidence that the law worked to prevent double voting.
As the Supreme Court properly concluded, requiring voters to identify themselves insures the integrity of elections and guarantees public confidence. Every phony vote cast steals the vote of a legitimate voter, just as if that voter had been prevented from voting. The saddest truth of the opposition to photo ID by those critics who are supposedly concerned about the “disadvantaged” is that those who are most often taken advantage of and hurt by voter fraud are, in fact, poor, elderly, and minority voters.
– Hans A. von Spakovsky is a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and Counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Department of Justice; he also served as a county election official in Georgia for five years. His reports for the Heritage Foundation detailing the New York voter-fraud case and fraud in Chicago are available at www.heritage.org.