There are few rights that are valued as dearly as the right to the universal franchise. Wars have been fought to secure it and wars have been fought to protect it. People have died defending it and they have died trying to make sure it was extended to others.
Voter fraud cheapens the value of the universal franchise. There are those, like the current president of the United States and his attorney general, however, who act like it's a fiction, some kind of right-wing fantasy that does not deserve our attention. And, as such, they are taking steps to oppose every reasonable effort to guard against it.
In recent months a number of states have moved forward with changes to their election laws designed to minimize the possibility of voter fraud. These include the abolition of same-day registration and the requirement that voters show a photo ID before being allowed to cast a ballot. The Obama administration has staked out a position in opposition, telling the state of Texas, for example, that its new voter ID law is unconstitutional because it discriminates against Hispanics, African-Americans, the elderly, and others.
Texas is now the second state, South Carolina being the first, where the Justice Department has used its authority under the federal Voting Rights Act to block voter ID. "In regard to Texas, 'I cannot conclude that the state has sustained its burden' of showing that the newly enacted law has neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect, Thomas E. Perez, the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said in a letter to the Texas secretary of state," the Associated Press reported earlier this week.
Consider what the Justice Department is saying. That the requirement to show a photo ID before voting is too intrusive, too expensive, and discriminatory against a certain class of people when federal law already requires people provide proof of identity to board an airplane, get a passport, or start work at a new job. Photo ID is also required when renting a car, purchasing alcohol, cashing a check or entering a federal building. Do these regulations also discriminate? One would think the same Justice Department that has blocked voter ID would say "Yes," but they haven't.
Add to this the news that citizen-journalist James O'Keefe was able to demonstrate the potential for voter fraud is real in places like New Hampshire and Vermont, where someone working with him asked for and received ballots in the names of different people at polling places across the state and was given them without have to prove who they were.
If a citizen-journalist can do such a thing successfully just to prove a point, what might a well-organized political campaign by a third-party be able to do that would affect the outcome of an election? It is clear that additional safeguards are necessary but the Obama administration opposes them, not because they are constitutional questionable but, more than likely, because they realize they are more likely to benefit from voter fraud than be harmed by it.
Moreover, the harm is immediate and cannot be mitigated. Once a vote is cast, that's it. This has been the argument several times in recent years when the probability that voter fraud had occurred was high, as when felons have been found to have voted illegally—but, as no one can prove for whom they voted, there is no remedy available. The only way to guard against voter fraud is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
There are plenty of problems at the polling places in every election, not all of which rise to the level of outright fraud. In truth, however, fraud itself is rampant—from harassment at polling places to the signing of false names to nominating petitions to people who actually vote more than once in a single election or who cast a vote in the name of another. Such actions cheapen the rights and representation of each and every legitimate voter in the United States. It is indeed a strange world when a presidential administration asks for an investigation into alleged irregularities in a foreign election but turns a blind eye to the possibility of irregularities here at home.