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Not a Race Card
From the August 29, 2011, issue of NR


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Hans A. von Spakovsky

A number of states have recently passed voter-ID legislation — among them, Texas, Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island. Two others, Georgia and Indiana, implemented such laws years ago. This trend has the Left hyperventilating. From former president Bill Clinton to NAACP head Benjamin Jealous, irresponsible cries of “Jim Crow” have been uttered in a losing attempt to sell Americans a great lie: that requiring someone to authenticate his or her identity at the polling place by showing a government-issued photo identification is anything like the despicable discrimination that once existed in the South.

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Jealous blamed “the worst and most racist elements” in conservative tea-party groups for the voter-ID push. In truth, the vast majority of Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds (more than 75 percent in the latest Rasmussen poll) support voter-ID laws. Perhaps that’s because Americans have to use a photo ID to obtain a library card, drink a beer, cash a check, board an airplane, buy a train ticket, or check in to a hotel. They understand that requiring voter ID is a commonsense reform that helps protect the security and integrity of our election process. Happily, it’s a requirement voters can easily meet.
 
Once you get past the race-baiting, you will find that opponents of voter ID generally rely on two arguments, equally specious: 1) There is no need for photo ID, because there is no voter fraud in the United States; 2) This is a deliberate effort to suppress the turnout of minority voters, who often don’t have photo ID. Liberals keep repeating these false claims despite the fact that they have been disproved both in the courtroom and at the polling place.
 
The claim that there is no voter fraud in the U.S. is patently ridiculous, given our rich and unfortunate history of it. As the U.S. Supreme Court said when it upheld Indiana’s photo-ID law in 2008, “Flagrant examples of such fraud . . . have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists.” The liberal groups that fought Indiana’s law didn’t have much luck with liberal justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the 6–3 decision. Before being named to the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens practiced law in Chicago, a hotbed of electoral malfeasance.
 
Some opponents have tried to narrow down the argument, claiming that voter ID can stop only impersonation fraud, and that this particular type of fraud is rare or nonexistent. But as the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out in the Indiana case, the relative rarity of prosecutions for impersonation fraud can be “explained by the endemic underenforcement” of voter-fraud cases and “the extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” without the tools — a photo ID — needed to detect such fraud.
 
One of the most egregious examples was revealed by a Brooklyn grand jury in 1984, a case the New York Times conveniently ignores whenever it rails against voter ID. The grand jury detailed a widespread conspiracy that operated without detection for 14 years, involving not only impersonation of voters at the polls, but also voting under fictitious names that had been successfully registered. Thousands of fraudulent votes were cast in state and congressional elections.
 
When I mention that case in debates, the inevitable reply is that it happened a long time ago, as though the 1980s were the Dark Ages. Another well-documented case occurred in a city-council election in Hoboken, N.J., in 2007. The former zoning-board president noticed a group of men near his polling place being given index cards by two people. One of those men later entered the polling place and tried to vote in the name of another registered voter who no longer lived in the ward. The impostor was caught only because he happened to be challenged by the zoning-board president. He admitted to the police that the group of men from a homeless shelter had been paid $10 each to vote using others’ names.
 
One of the reasons that Wisconsin changed its voter-ID law was the finding of a special task force, set up by the Milwaukee Police Department after the 2004 election, that residents from other states had registered and voted. Numerous staffers from out of state working for the John Kerry campaign and the Environ­mental Victory Campaign, a liberal political-action committee, had illegally registered and voted in Milwaukee.

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