It looks increasingly likely that at least one member of the United States Senate may owe his seat in the world’s greatest deliberative body not to his charisma or the persuasiveness of his message but to voter fraud.
As the Wall Street Journal's John Fund reports, Minnesota Democrat Al Franken’s narrow, 312-vote victory in 2008 over incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman may have come as the result of people being allowed to vote who, under existing law, shouldn’t have been.
The certification of Franken as the victor came only after a series of recounts dragging out for almost half a year. It also sparked an investigation by Minnesota Majority, a conservative watchdog group that compared the list of those recorded as having voted in the election against what Fund calls “criminal rap sheets.” The group found, in what appears to clearly warrant further and official inquiry, that
… At least 341 convicted felons voted in Minneapolis's Hennepin County, the state's largest, and another 52 voted illegally in St. Paul's Ramsey County, the state's second largest. Dan McGrath, head of Minnesota Majority, says that only conclusive matches were included in the group's totals. The number of felons voting in those two counties alone exceeds Mr. Franken's victory margin.
Thus far no one is calling for the results to be overturned. Indeed Dan McGrath, who spearheaded the inquiry, told Fox News, "We aren't trying to change the result of the last election. That legally can't be done." He added: “We are just trying to make sure the integrity of the next election isn't compromised."
McGrath’s point is a good one. The only question is how the integrity of U.S. elections can be maintained when senior policymakers inside the United States Department of Justice, through their actions and instructions to their staffs, do not seem to believe that voter fraud exists or, if it does, that it is not worth investigating.
One way, if the politicians in Washington continue to impede the process of keeping the roles clean, might be for states to treat a voter’s registration the same way that drivers’ licenses, passports, hunting and fishing licenses, concealed-carry permits, and other official documents are treated and require that it be renewed on a regular schedule every few years.
No one objects in principle to the need to have drivers’ licenses or passports renewed, even if they have to stand in line someplace to get it done. Annoying? Yes. Time consuming? Absolutely. But the requirement for renewal is in no way an impediment, constitutionally or otherwise, to getting it done. It seems perfectly reasonable, therefore, to ask people to do the same with their voter registration.
Voter registration does not need to be for life. Unclean roles jeopardize their integrity and the security of the franchise. It is just as damaging to the rights of us all to have people voting who are not allowed to be as it is to prevent people entitled to vote from casting ballots.
The failure to keep the voter roles clean--to remove from them the names of voters who have died, who have been convicted of felonies, or who have moved from the place of residence they occupied when they registered--cheapens the process, turning it into a game of who can best beat the system, as the election results from the 2008 Minnesota Senate race suggest.
Whether it is a matter of the time and expense involved or a deliberate decision “to look the other way,” no one can be secure in the value of their own vote when the potential for fraud continues to exist on such a massive scale. Requiring re-registration once every five years or so would keep the lists clean–or at least make them cleaner than they are now--as anyone who failed to re-register would be dropped from the roles.