By Robert Schlesinger |
It's unfortunate that sensible reforms to protect against voter fraud have been caught up in an ideological battle. Those on the left have decided that voter fraud is a faux issue, a fantasy trumped up by conservatives to suppress voter turnout in poor and minority areas that tend to vote Democratic. But foes of voter ID are the ones trying to make political hay out of the most unobtrusive voting rules.
There's a reason people laugh at that old joke about wanting to die in Chicago in order to stay active in politics. Voter fraud always has been a real problem, and simple measures to combat it can stop some abuse and reaffirm public faith in the voting system.
"In Bee County, near Corpus Christi, there are 19,000 missing voter registration cards—the only document necessary to cast a vote under current law," according to a recent Reuters report quoting the Texas director of elections. The Texas voter-ID law is the source of the latest legal and political battle over this issue. Reuters also noted, "Texas will soon investigate 239 cases of dead people casting votes in the 2010 election." Missing cards and dead voters should cause concern to those interested in a reliable and fair democratic process.
The same people who have no problem with ever-intrusive governmental measures in virtually every area of our lives (IRS audits, TSA searches, inspections by health officials and air-quality agents) suddenly find the act of showing a license or other ID before voting beyond the pale. This has nothing to do with the rules, and everything to do with partisan politics.
Speaking before the NAACP, Attorney General Eric Holder said earlier this week: "Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. We call those poll taxes."
What world is he living in? Holder is spinning divisive yarns to rally the troops and to portray Republicans as racists. Some conservatives may have overstated the voter-fraud threat, but there's nothing unreasonable about requiring Americans to show some ID before voting to assure that the right person is receiving the ballot.
That such a modest idea has created outrage is the latest sign of our overly politicized times.
About Steven Greenhut Vice President of Journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
Hans A. Von Spakovsky Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation
Wendy Weiser Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law