Much ado about voter ID requirements
See reader feedback at the end.
Two years ago, SAFE assessed the conflicting claims and concluded that voting fraud is a serious problem. We advocated acceptance of photo ID requirements as a means of ensuring that voters are who they say they are and vote only once. Elimination of early voting (excepting the traditional use of absentee ballots), all-mail voting, and same day voting were also recommended, possibly coupled with a new approach to encouraging voter turnout (observe a national holiday on general election days). Voting fraud is all too real, 11/3/14.
However, big government fans (Side A) continue to staunchly oppose reforms that would make voting fraud more difficult. An update follows, starting with additional evidence that concerns about this problem are warranted.
A. Voting fraud – Heritage Foundation maintains a database of cases (see examples below) that resulted in prosecutions for fraudulent use of absentee ballots, duplicate voting, false registration, ineligible voting, etc. There are nearly 300 cases of voter fraud in America, Jason Snead, dailysignal.com, 8/11/15.
Rodney Paul Jones was charged with double voting in Arizona and Colorado in the 2008 general election, fraudulent registration, and presenting a false instrument. He pleaded guilty  and was fined $4,600 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and a month’s probation.
Eric Jones, a former ACORN employee, pleaded guilty  to a charge of submitting false voter registrations. Meanwhile, fellow Pennsylvania ACORN employees Alexis Givner and Mario Grisom, have also been convicted of registration fraud-related charges. Each was sentenced to two years’ probation.
Six Lincoln County Democrats pleaded guilty [West VA, 2006] to charges of participating in a conspiracy to buy votes dating back to 1990. The indictment charged that the six conspired to buy votes in elections held in 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 “for the purpose of selecting and electing candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives and in some instances, for the presidency and vice presidency of the U.S.” The men paid for votes in liquor and cash, typically $20 per vote, and handed out slates listing preferred candidates. The five also laid gravel on roads for supporters and fixed traffic tickets. Some of their sentences included the following: Vance was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment, Stowers received six months of imprisonment, and Wandell Adkins received four months in a halfway house.
These cases took place over a period of years, in many different states, and most of them reflect individual malfeasance (sometimes for quirky reasons, e.g., a woman sent her teenage son to vote in her husband’s place because the husband wasn’t expected to be able to make it). Accordingly, the total number of cases may seem unimpressive. Bear in mind, however, that for every case of voting fraud that is prosecuted, many cases probably go undetected or are not pursued.
Further evidence of voting fraud was unearthed by a TV station in California. CBS2 investigation uncovers votes being cast from grave year after year, David Goldstein, losangeles.cbslocal.com, 5/23/16.
CBS2 compared millions of voting records from the California Secretary of State’s office with death records from the Social Security Administration and found hundreds of so-called dead voters. *** 215 in Los Angeles County alone *** Across all counties, Goldstein uncovered 32 dead voters who cast ballots in eight elections apiece, including a woman who died in 1988. Records show she somehow voted in 2014, 26 years after she passed away.
And consider this case reported by Heritage, which isn’t an example of voting fraud per se but demonstrates that it’s not hard to beat the system. If people can cheat with impunity, we would suggest, many will wind up doing so.
Undercover New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) agents testing the integrity of New York City elections [in 2014] were able to vote 61 times out of 63 attempts using the names of ineligible voters, known felons, and deceased city residents.
Another clue is lopsided results and procedural irregularities in certain polling precincts, which may suggest wholesale manipulation of voting results. Obama’s “voter ID” scam is busted! Wayne Allen Root, theblaze.com, 2/25/14.
Take Philadelphia as just one example. There were voting precincts in Philly where the combined vote was Obama over Romney by about 30,000 to 0. In those precincts GOP poll watchers were forcibly removed for several hours, until judges ordered them back in. During those hours were the ballot boxes stuffed? Did Democrat voters vote 10 times each?
Similar anomalies occurred in Ohio voting. Obama was likely re-elected through election fraud, Rachel Alexander, townhall.com, 11/11/12.
In at least two counties in Ohio, the number of registered voters exceeded the number of eligible adults who are of voting age. In northwestern Ohio's Wood County, there are 109 registered voters for every 100 people eligible to vote. An additional 31 of Ohio's 88 counties have voter registration rates over 90%, which most voting experts regard as suspicious. Obama miraculously won 100% of the vote in 21 districts in Cleveland, and received over 99% of the vote where GOP inspectors were illegally removed.
B. Voter turnout – Side A’s stock response to concerns about voter fraud is that it is rare or nonexistent. See, e.g., Myth of voter fraud, Brennan Center, New York University law school, accessed 8/5/16.
The Brennan Center’s ongoing examination of voter fraud claims reveal that voter fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly non-existent, and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators. Our  report “The truth about voter fraud” reveals most allegations of fraud turn out to be baseless — and that of the few allegations remaining, most reveal election irregularities and other forms of election misconduct.
There is more interest in talking about low voter turnout, which supposedly perverts the results of our democratic system. Ibid.
Voter fraud is not acceptable in our elections [perish the thought], but we must find a balance and not impose solutions that make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to participate in our democracy.
After big Republican gains in the 2014 mid-term elections, for example, the president made a point of bringing up the low voter turnout (about 37%). Presidential news conference, 11/5/14.
So, to everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.
(Voter turnout runs higher in presidential elections, e.g., 58% in 2008 and 55% in 2012, but it was supposedly much higher than that in the past, e.g., during much of the 19th Century. Query: what happened between 1836 (58%) and 1840 (80%)? Voter turnout in presidential elections: 1828-2012.)
Several months later, in responding to a question about the influence of money in politics, the president suggested that higher voting turnout could “change the political map” in America. Speech to the City Club of Cleveland, 3/18/15.
In Australia, and some other countries, there’s mandatory voting. It would be transformative if everybody voted. That would counteract money more than anything. If everybody voted, then it would completely change the political map in this country, because the people who tend not to vote are young; they're lower income; they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups; and they're often the folks who are -- they're scratching and climbing to get into the middle class. And they're working hard, and there’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls. We should want to get them into the polls.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton subsequently floated a raft of ideas to encourage more Americans to vote – never mind whether they are knowledgeable about the candidates and issues or not. Counting on vote fraud, Kenneth Blackwell, Washington Times, 6/16/15.
While denying that vote fraud exists, Hillary Clinton demanded [June 2015 speech] a set of electoral reforms that, taken together, would “nationalize” our election process — something our Founding Fathers deliberately avoided. She called on the federal government to institute mandatory 20-day voting periods [early voting], ease online registration, and automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18. The Constitution specifically reserves the power to regulate voting to the states, not the federal government, but the left has not allowed the Constitution to stand in its way for years.
For its part, Side B has supported state law changes to deter voting fraud – despite vehement objections from Side A. Thus, new voter ID laws in North Carolina, Texas and elsewhere have been likened to voter suppression laws used in the South before the Civil Rights Act was enacted a half century ago. [Vice President Joe] Biden: New voter ID laws tied to “hatred,” Justin Sink, thehill.com, 2/25/14.
Some Southern states have moved aggressively . . . to impose new, tougher voter ID requirements. Supporters of the legislation, including many Republicans, argue the new standards help prevent voter fraud. But civil rights groups and Democrats have blasted the legislation as an attempt to suppress the vote among poor and minority voters, who are less likely to have government-issued photo identification. They also argue that instances of voter fraud are exceedingly rare.
Court challenges to voting law changes in several states are in process, and a trio of Side A victories were announced in the second half of July.
C. Legal wrangling – The US Supreme Court confirmed the acceptability of photo ID laws for voters in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board [Indiana], SCt, 2008, so why do challenges to such laws keep surfacing?
Answer: The Crawford decision wasn’t clear-cut. On one hand, there was said to be “no question about the legitimacy or importance of a State’s interest in counting only eligible voters’ votes” and “in protecting public confidence in elections [so as to] encourage citizen participation in the democratic process.” But on the other, Indiana was expected to show that no category of voters would be inappropriately inconvenienced.
It was concluded that said requirement had been satisfied in Crawford, but only based on the specific provisions of the Indiana law and with due consideration to the procedural posture of the case.
The relevant burdens here are those imposed on eligible voters who lack photo identification cards that comply with SEA 483. Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting. The severity of the somewhat heavier burden that may be placed on a limited number of persons—e.g., elderly persons born out-of-state, who may have difficulty obtaining a birth certificate—is mitigated by the fact that eligible voters without photo identification may cast provisional ballots that will be counted if they execute the required affidavit at the circuit court clerk’s office. Even assuming that the burden may not be justified as to a few voters, that conclusion is by no means sufficient to establish petitioners’ right to the relief they seek [striking the law across the board].
Thus, a balancing test was established – with no presumption re the validity of state legislation – that invited judicial review in all future cases of this nature. Protracted litigation has ensued re the voter ID, etc. laws of Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin and perhaps other states.
#TEXAS – Voting en banc (9-6), the 5th Circuit ruled (Veasey v. Abbott) that Texas’s 2011 voter ID law (which can be satisfied by presenting a state driver’s license, US passport, military ID card, US citizenship certificate with a photo, etc.) “makes it harder for blacks and Hispanics to vote.” It therefore “asked a district court to make changes to the law before the general election in November.”
The district court must ensure that any remedy enacted ameliorates [the law’s] discriminatory effect, while respecting the legislature’s stated objective to safeguard the integrity of elections by requiring more secure forms of voter identification.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott faulted the court for finding the law had a discriminatory effect, while Texas Democrats exulted that “the most restrictive and discriminatory Republican voter ID law in [the] country has been struck down.” Federal court issues voter ID ruling that could impact elections, Charles Campbell, westernjournalism.com, 7/20/16.
This case has been going on for years; indeed, it reached the US Supreme Court in the fall of 2014. A district court judge had stricken the Texas law and stayed its application; a three judge panel of the 5th Circuit had vacated the stay. Without commenting on the merits (except in a six-page dissent authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), the Supreme Court upheld the 5th Circuit ruling that the law could be applied in the mid-term elections. Supreme Court allows Texas to use strict ID laws in coming election, Adam Liptak, New York Times, 10/18/14.
The 5th Circuit’s latest decision has been slammed as frustrating efforts to ensure that only eligible persons are allowed to vote. Voter fraud is now an inalienable right . . . according to the 5th Circuit, Daniel Horowitz, conservativereview.com, 7/20/16.
Texas has about 4.5 million immigrants, including over 1.7 million illegal aliens. According to a 2014 analysis referenced in the Washington Post, more than 14% of all non-citizens in the country are illegally registered to vote. Texas clearly has a vital interest in advancing the simple and reasonable requirement of presenting a valid photo ID in order to protect all U.S. citizens – white, black and anyone else.
Others have characterized the ruling as “an effective compromise,” which will obviate any need for the Supreme Court to intervene in the case before November. Texas voter ID challenge headed to district court rather than Supreme Court, for now? Amy Howe, scotusblog.com, 7/20/16.
. . . today’s decision was not an unqualified victory for the challengers, as the appeals court also reversed the lower court’s finding that the law was invalid because it was intended to discriminate against minority voters. That question will now go back to the lower court for it to take another look.
#NORTH CAROLINA – The 4th Circuit issued a decision (NAACP v. McCrory) striking the voting reform law that North Carolina enacted in 2013 and introduced for the 2014 elections. In addition to a photo ID requirement (which was subject to various exemptions, would be provided for free in case of need, and was not to become mandatory until 2016), the law eliminated same day registration, shortened the period for early voting, and made various other changes.
The basic rationale was that whatever its effects, the law had been enacted with the intent of suppressing black voting. Court strikes down North Carolina voter ID law, Josh Gersten, politico.com, 7/29/16.
The record makes clear that the historical origin of the challenged provisions in this statute is not the innocuous back-and-forth of routine partisan struggle that the State suggests and that the district court accepted. Rather, the General Assembly enacted them in the immediate aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting. The district court clearly erred in ignoring or dismissing this historical background evidence, all of which supports a finding of discriminatory intent.
If this was the intent, the law misfired. Voter turnout increased in 2014 (versus the mid-term elections in 2010), with a bigger gain for black (29.5%) than for white (13.7%) voters. Voting turnout was marginally higher for black than for white voters, and overall North Carolina turnout beat the national average by about four percentage points.
Also, a 2015 amendment weakened the voter ID requirement by “allowing an individual to vote upon completion of a declaration that the voter had a ‘reasonable impediment’ to obtaining a free ID.” Election reform in North Carolina and the myth of voter suppression, Hans von Spakovsky, Heritage.org, 7/30/15.
The state asked the 4th Circuit to stay this ruling until after the 2016 elections, which request was denied, and then announced its intention to seek relief from the Supreme Court. North Carolina will ask Supreme Court to uphold voter ID law, Anna Giaritelli, Washington Examiner, 8/5/16.
"Changing our state's election laws close to the upcoming election, including common-sense voter ID, will create confusion for voters and poll workers," [NC Governor Pat] McCrory said in a statement Friday evening. "The court should have stayed their ruling, which is legally flawed, factually wrong and disparaging to our state."
#WISCONSIN overhauled its voting laws in 2011 (during a period of political chaos), among other things imposing a photo ID requirement; the validity of the amendments has been in dispute ever since. In the fall of 2014, the case reached the Supreme Court after the 7th Circuit - citing the previously discussed decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, SCt, 2008 - reversed a trial court ruling striking the law.
Doing the opposite of what it would subsequently do re the Texas voting law (see previous discussion), the Supreme Court blocked implementation of the Wisconsin law for the 2014 elections. Courts strike down voter ID laws in Wisconsin and Texas, Adam Liptak, 10/9/14.
It’s unclear what happened in the interim, but another trial court judge recently issued a ruling (One Wisconsin Institute v. Thomsen) disapproving most of the Wisconsin law. Parts of Wisconsin voter ID law ruled unconstitutional, Emily Tamkin, slate.com, 7/30/16.
[Judge] Peterson, who lambasted the reduction of time for in-person voting from 30 to 12 days before the election as discriminatory, said "the Legislature's objective was political." He also wrote that "the state’s current process for getting free IDs to people who lack such documents [as birth certificates] ...is unconstitutional and “a wretched failure” because it has left a number of overwhelmingly black and Hispanic citizens unable to obtain IDs."
Also stricken: a requirement that dorm lists used as proof of residence for college students contain citizenship information; a 28-day residency requirement; a prohibition on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email; and a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs. The judge spared a provision banning voting on the Monday before election day, however, so that voting “clerks might have a day of rest.”
This ruling will presumably be appealed to the 7th Circuit, although we haven’t seen an announcement to that effect.
* * * * *
Some observers have slammed the Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin decisions as an unwarranted power grab. Voter ID and the real threat to democracy, Hans von Spakovsky & John Fund, Wall Street Journal, 8/1/16.
These erroneous rulings twist the Voting Rights Act from a law intended to stop racial discrimination into one that transfers the power to determine routine election procedures—which the Constitution delegates to the states—to the judiciary.
We are inclined to agree, and would add that it’s hard to fathom why years should be required to litigate the validity of these laws, with adverse decisions popping up shortly before elections – as happened in 2014 and is now happening again – unless some of the judges involved have a partisan political agenda.
Totally agree re importance of combatting voter fraud. That's how Bush won Florida and Gore got cheated out of being the president. – Retired financial executive [SAFE comment: The Florida vote count issue in the 2000 election was a bit different. Rigged elections? A history of presidential candidates who’ve made allegations (third account), Fred Lucas, dailysignal.com, 8/8/16. Ironically, the reaction to the Bush v. Gore controversy has resulted in creating new voting fraud vulnerabilities around the country. How to hack an election in 7 minutes, Ben Wofford, politico.com, 8/5/16.]
Recent material from Judicial Watch reaches similar conclusion re fraud in US polling places. – Retired IBMer
That is an outstanding list of voter frauds, but such 'facts' will not deter more voting problems nor will it convince Democrats to police their own precincts. This is Old Chicago politics metastasized across America, what is left of it, going on at its pleasure. – SAFE director
Re the huge jump in voter turnout over 1836 presidential race, did a Clinton run in 1840? – Thermodynamics expert [The 1840 race was between William Harrison and Martin Van Buren.]
Good job, covers the waterfront. The opinion in the NC ruling was terrible, ignored obvious points that didn’t support the preconceived conclusion. – SAFE director