By Robert Schlesinger |
Voting fraud is not a problem. Yet, many states in the country, most notably Florida, are carrying out unconstitutional practices that will suppress the votes of millions of American citizens. According to election law experts instances of polling place fraud are extremely rare. In fact, they say, you have a better chance of being hit by lightning.
The facts agree with this assessment:
A five-year investigation by the Justice Department under President George W. Bush found just 86 instances of improper voting from 2002 to 2005.
South Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas have each reported less than 10 voting fraud cases over the past five years. Yet, these states, in addition to a dozen others in similar situations, have passed strict voter ID requirements.
"The Truth About Fraud" a report by the Brennan Center for Justice went through thousands of cases going back to the 1990s and found that allegations of voting fraud are often wholly inaccurate or heavily exaggerated.
The fact is that there are already laws in the books to ensure that only eligible citizens are allowed to vote. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 established federal voter ID requirements and requires ID at the polls from all first-time voters who register by mail and who fail to provide an ID at the time of registration. There are also harsh penalties for those who try to impersonate a voter or for those who erroneously fill out voter registration cards. Each act of voter fraud in connection with a federal election risks five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, in addition to state penalties.
Yet, the whole chatter about voter fraud is creating the perception of problem and in the process disenfranchising eligible voters. But, what is wrong you ask, with requiring ID? And who could possibly not have one? Well, check out this video which features the cutest couple in Wisconsin who would not have been able to vote if it would not have been because the League of Women Voters stepped in. Or let me introduce you to Gloria Cuttino born in South Carolina who cannot get a hold of her birth certificate or read about Bill Internicola, the World War II veteran who was born in Brooklyn and voted in Florida for 14 years, until he was told he was not a U.S. citizen.
Just because many of us do have ID doesn't mean that everyone does. In fact, over 21 million Americans lack them. And not everybody can walk to their nearest DMV to get one either. Example: Osceola, Wis. Population: under 3,000. The town is 30 minutes away from the nearest DMV offices and both are rarely open.
Lightning rod comparisons aside, depriving any citizen of his/her most fundamental constitutional right—the right to vote, is un-American and undermines our democracy. Instead of a conversation about making it more difficult for citizens to vote we should be having a conversation about how to encourage more voter participation and how to make it easy and efficient to vote.
About Vanessa Cardenas Director of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress
Hans A. Von Spakovsky Manager of the Heritage Foundation's Civil Justice Reform Initiative
Steven Greenhut Vice President of Journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
Howard Simon Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida