This morning I took part in a sacred civic obligation: I voted. The casting of one’s ballot is a truly egalitarian American experience — everyone has an equal say in how they will be represented in matters of governance. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, religious or not, a Mayflower descendant or a newly sworn-in U.S. citizen.
But in Maryland, my rights were infringed upon when my identity as a legal voter was rendered insignificant. Nobody asked me for identification, nor was anyone obliged to do so. As a result of this inaction, voter fraud will not only be tolerated but is rendered likely.
Maryland is one of 23 states that maintain the most minimal standards for voter identification, only requiring that you show ID (photo not required) when you register, and never again after that. This allows anyone who knows your full name and polling location to vote in your place with no recourse.
Liberals led by the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, and the NAACP contend that voter-ID requirements are designed to suppress minority and Democratic votes, but that has been proven wrong time and time again. In 2008, Georgia and Indiana, two states where identification is required to vote without a provisional ballot, saw historically high turnout among African-Americans and Democrats. In Indiana, where voter-ID laws are strictest, Democratic turnout increased by over 8 percent in 2008 over 2004; this was the largest increase in the nation. Georgia’s voter-ID requirements got stricter between 2004 and 2008, but African-American turnout increased. And when compared to other states with similar populations but less strict voter laws, the argument that the turnout would have been even higher without the enforcement is laid to rest.
A Rasmussen poll in August 2010 found that a full 82 percent of Americans believe all voters should show photo ID before they are allowed to vote, representing a majority in every single demographic group. This is not a fringe opinion, but a national consensus.
Retired liberal Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, a former anti-corruption lawyer from Chicago, agrees that lax voter-ID requirements lead to voter fraud. In the 6–3 majority opinion upholding Indiana’s new law, he writes: “That flagrant examples of [voter] fraud…have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists…demonstrate[s] that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”
In ruling after ruling, strict voter-ID laws have been found to be constitutional and not in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Yet that doesn’t stop liberal activist groups from spending countless court hours and taxpayer resources working towards an end goal that invites voter fraud.
Most recently, the Obama administration has made clear that it will not prosecute illegal immigrants who violate our voting laws by taking part in a process that is explicitly for U.S. citizens only. When Putnam County, Tenn., recently reported to the Obama administration that a person had voted illegally before becoming a citizen, the response was simply to ask if he had been taken off the voter rolls. This of course ignored that it is a felony under federal law to register and vote in elections as a non-citizen.
Illegal-immigration advocates address these instances as innocent mistakes, but the federal voter-registration form explicitly asks at the top, “Are you a citizen of the United States of America?” It then asks you to swear and reaffirm that statement when you sign your name. How many free passes do certain criminals get in the Holder Justice Department?
The point here is not that people should be denied their right to vote. Quite the opposite: Legal and registered citizens should not be denied their right to have their votes fully count by illegal ballots cast mere feet away.
The yearning to cast a vote in an American election is admirable but nevertheless punishable if done illegally. Those who wish to defraud and corrupt the process should not be given an easy path.
It’s time for all 50 states to have commonsense voter-ID laws that require photo identification every time you vote. It is the only way to protect the integrity and security of this sacred obligation for millions of legally registered Americans. Please, will someone check my ID?
— Rory Cooper is director of strategic communications at the Heritage Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @rorycooper.