Let’s Get Real: Voter ID Laws Aren’t All about Stopping Fraud

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September 11, 2012; Source: The Daily Advertiser

Voter identification laws requiring photo IDs are only targeting one kind of fraud: the kind in which someone tries to impersonate someone else to be able to vote. In the debate over voter IDs and voter fraud, other kinds of fraud, such as the alleged voter fraud of Wendy Rosen, the Democratic candidate for Congress from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, wouldn’t be affected. According to a letter from Maryland’s Democratic Party to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, Rosen allegedly voted in Maryland and in Florida in the 2006 and 2008 elections, having been registered to vote in both states. If so, we’ll bet a dime that Rosen had a photo ID to show in each state. Photo IDs would block impersonation fraud, which studies show is very infrequent. One wonders if—or if so, why—the public thinks that photo IDs would extinguish the many other kinds of voter fraud that have nothing to do with impersonation. 

Louisiana’s voter ID law has been cast as a compromise between the strict laws that require photo IDs and those states without voter ID laws. To vote in Louisiana, voters can show a driver’s license, a free “Louisiana Special ID” obtainable at the Office of Motor Vehicles, or “some other generally recognized picture ID that contains your name and signature.” Louisiana voters with no picture ID can bring a utility bill or payroll check that includes their name and address, but they will have to sign a state Election Division affidavit at the polling place in order to vote. Democrats and Republicans in Louisiana seem to be satisfied with this compromise structure, which Ryan Teten, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, calls “a good, moderate approach.” 

Is the concern really about voter fraud? Or is there an intent on the part of the legislators in some states to achieve a political goal? For example, News21, funded by the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, reports that more than half of the state bills proposing photo ID requirements were proposed by legislators with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It’s not like ALEC is quite as nonpartisan as its 501(c)(3) status would imply. ALEC also holds to other conservative policies such as vouchers for school choice and, prior to the Trayvon Martin case, the infamous “stand your ground” laws (though ALEC has since backed off of its former “stand your ground” advocacy). 

Rampant voter fraud? For the voters who signed affidavits rather than presenting photo ID in the 2008 election in Louisiana’s 64 parishes, audits conducted by the office of Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler revealed not one instance of voter fraud. Not one. Not even one that the auditors had questions about. In Louisiana? The state where former Gov. Edwin Edwards just finished eight years in federal prison for bribery, extortion, and racketeering? The state where Edwards bumper stickers read, “Vote for the Crook: It’s Important” (Edwards won in a landslide against former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke)?

If Louisiana hasn’t been plagued by fraudulent voter impersonation by people who have signed affidavits rather than presenting photo IDs, doesn’t that say something about what’s really going on with the effort to enact voter ID laws in so many states?—Rick Cohen

  • Floyd Rheos

    I recently heard a great summation of the voter fraud problem in this country:

    “…voter fraud is such a huge problem that during a five year period in the Bush Administration, when 196 million votes were cast, the number of cases of voter fraud reached…86. Not 86,000. 86. Here’s what that number looks like as a percentage of votes cast. .00004%. (Four one hundred thousandths of a percent). This would be called a solution without a problem, but it’s not. It’s just a solution to a different problem.”

  • Tom King

    What’s really going on, Rick, is that a lot of voters and not just conservative ones, but independents and liberals as well, are tired of seeing the dead, illegal immigrants and dopplegangers determining who wins elections in this country. We’re tired of gerry-mandered districts that cherry pick neighborhoods based on their politics. We’re sick of having our voices stolen by election fraud.

    Since we have to have ID to cash checks, open bank accounts or do practically anything in this country (like obtain admittance to the Democratic convention, for instance), it looks awfully suspicious that one group, already infamous for “voting the graveyard” is setting up such a howl over such a little thing as having to present some form of ID in order to vote. This from the very party that managed to mandate that every man, woman and child in America obtain a unique identifying number before they can get a job and the same people who attached penalties to that requirement to obtain a number that throw people into prison if they use a fake one.

    I am currently bankrupt and so flat broke I can’t afford to get a cab to the food stamp office. I’ve just moved to a new state, can’t get my license transferred till I can afford to pay a traffic ticket and I’m going to have to get some sort of ID just to look for work here. I should be the poster child for voter disenfranchisement.

    But the truth is, I got myself into this state and I expect to work my way out. I use the internet at the library or a friend’s house to look for work. I freelance for a few bucks to pay expenses and keep up my wife’s medical insurance.

    But, if I get left out of the vote, it will be only because I chose not to do what I need to do to get myself an ID. When it comes down to it, if I don’t vote, it won’t be because they want to see identification under any of the proposed voter ID laws.

    The only reason for me to be unwilling to present a voter ID is because I am either in this country illegally and can’t get a valid identification document or because I am not who I say I am and am voting on someone else’s name who is either dead or illl or imaginary.

    That’s the reason many of us want to see voter ID laws. Elections keep coming out differently than we thought they would and we suspect that something funny is going on at the polls. I don’t mind my side losing an election if we lose fairly. We’re just tired of seeing busloads of people going from poll to poll. We’re tired of hearing people brag about how many times they were able to vote that day (and I have heard this with my own ears.

    “Vote early, vote often.” isn’t a funny joke anymore. If you can’t prove you are who you say you are and you’re unwilling to life a finger to get the free documents you need to prove who you are in order to exercise your voting privileges, then I am mystified as to why you would bother to vote anyway.

    Again I can only see two reasons – you aren’t who you say you are or you’re not a legal US voter.

    explain please.


  • rick cohen

    Tom, I think you’ve said it all! 🙂

  • Carlos Ferreyra

    You are out of your liberal mind. Voter fraud occurs in every election. How Mickey Mouses, dead voters and illegal aliens have shown up in elections where it was crucial to defeat the conservative candidate. In Los. Angeles we now want to use library cards as identification for those without IDs ….why not be honest, state that as a liberal you would prefer to have any living thing vote….as long as they vote Democrat!

  • rick cohen

    Thanks for your note Carlos and your commentary on my mental health. Voter IDs deal only with in-person voter impersonation fraud, that’s it. And that is by all accounts unbelievably minimal. There are other kinds of interference in the electoral process that need to be addressed as well, but that won’t happen with voter IDs. If you read my columns, you’ll correctly surmise that I lean liberal, but I also lean to doing things the right way, which is why I don’t subscribe to the premise of your last question/statement–and that’s my honest feeling. Thanks for writing.

  • Licia Kokocinski

    We in Australia are always intrigued by the broo-ha-ha about voting – compulsory voter registration when a person turns 18 AND compulsory voting is accepted in this country as orthodox. Coupled with this, there are both state legislated Electoral Commissions as well as a federal electoral commission that takes charge of the conduct of all elections, voting counts, declaring official results, postal and other forms of voting, and importantly, voter rolls. Municipal elections are controlled by the state electoral commission. By the way, voter rolls are no longer publicly available because of privacy legislation. At times, conservatives try to advocate to abolish our compulsory system, but cannot get any traction at all. voter registration is undertaken by simply completing the registration forms, and signing that all the statements are true and correct.

  • Susan

    When someone votes illegally, they cancel out my vote.

    Is there anyone out there who thinks this is fair? Really?

  • rick cohen

    Agreed, but impersonation isn’t the problem. There are other kinds of voter fraud (as the America magazine mentioned) that are really problems, not impersonation. However, can i take your metaphor one step further? If an illegal vote cancels out the vote of someone who voted legally, what does a vote that isn’t permitted to be registered (that is, a voter turned away from the polls) mean?