Reince Priebus is chairman of the Republican National Committee
There is no freedom more fundamental in America than the freedom to vote. It is both a right and a privilege; the integrity of which must—as a matter of principle—be perpetually preserved and protected.
Americans of all political persuasions can agree that it is the integrity of the vote that safeguards the integrity of our democratic process. When that integrity is compromised, we must act. Unfortunately, recent elections have revealed existing problems.
Look no further than 2008 and the infamous example of ACORN—the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The national nonpartisan organization Project Vote estimated that in 2008, ACORN perpetrated 400,000 fraudulent registrations.
In fact, in 2004, The Wall Street Journal noted that, in Ohio, "a worker for one [ACORN] affiliate was given crack cocaine in exchange for fraudulent registrations that included underage voters, dead voters, and pillars of the community named Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, and Jive Turkey." [Read the U.S. News Debate: Are recall elections a good idea?]
In 2007, ACORN settled the largest case of voter fraud in the history of the state of Washington state. And in Nevada this year, senior ACORN executives Amy Busefink and Christopher Howell Edwards pled guilty to "conspiracy to commit the crime of compensation for registration of voters."
More recently, in a crucial Colorado Senate race last fall—one decided by a narrow margin—it was discovered that nearly 5,000 noncitizens voted. It was also revealed that a disconcerting 12,000 noncitizens are registered to vote in Colorado.
In 2008, the Milwaukee Police Department issued an unprecedented investigative report after a nearly two-year review of Wisconsin's voting problems. It concluded that in 2004, there was an "illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome" of a state election.
More and more, elections are decided not on election night but in the incessant legal wrangling that too often ensues in the weeks after an election. Voter intimidation. Machine malfunctions. Suspect absentee ballots. Though our electoral system sets a high bar for integrity on a global scale, uncertainty too often abounds. When and where a reasonable opportunity arises to address that uncertainty, we should—as Americans—embrace it.
That is what elected leaders in countless states have done in recent months. Legislators in more than 30 states are working to institute photo identification laws. The laws simply require a voter to present a legitimate government-issued photo ID upon arriving at the polls to vote.
This common-sense proposal seeks to further preserve the sanctity of our elections by ensuring that only eligible voters vote in American elections. And what makes one eligible? Presenting a simple government-issued photo identification card—a driver's license, for example. The very same ID card required to cash a government check, enter a federal building, obtain registered mail, drive a car, apply for Medicare or Medicaid, and countless other everyday activities. States like Wisconsin even ensure that those who cannot afford a state identification card are issued one free of charge. [Read the U.S. News Debate: Time to end the presidential election funding tax checkoff?]
It has been unfortunate to read that a small but confounding cadre of democratic operatives in Washington are attacking this common sense proposal. Among them is Donna Brazile, former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee and campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. The Gore campaign came under intense scrutiny for the infamous "smokes for votes" scandal, wherein an independent Wisconsin news outlet caught Democrat campaign volunteers enticing homeless men to vote and giving them packs of cigarettes after transporting them to City Hall to vote for Al Gore.
These liberal insiders—who tried to position themselves as the arbiters of free and fair elections—claim that these photo ID laws are burdensome and would disenfranchise millions by setting the qualification bar to vote in American elections too high.