Monday, January 19, 2009

No Evidence Of Voter Fraud

In Indiana and six other states, unless you have a valid government-issued photo ID, of the type that Texas Republicans seek to make mandatory for would be Texas voters, you can not vote for anything. That’s a lesson a group of Indiana nuns learned in 2008 when they tried to vote in Indiana’s presidential primary.

Ten sisters, all in their 80s and 90s, from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in South Bend were turned away from their polling place by a fellow sister because they presented outdated passports or had no photo ID at all. A rule requiring a photo ID to vote in Indiana became official following an April 28, 2008 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court deeming it constitutional.

While Texas proponents of voter ID legislation argue that it's needed to combat voter fraud, there is no evidence that the type of fraud that these requirements address has occurred at any point since records have been kept.

Voter Fraud is the claim that large groups of people knowingly and willingly give false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly vote illegally or participate in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others.

Twenty-five states require identification at the polls for all voters and seven states - Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana and Michigan now require or can request a government-issued photo ID. In Arizona voters may present two non-photo documents such as a bank statement and a utility bill in lieu of a photo ID. Arizona's list of alternative IDs is similar to the list of IDs that Texas voters may present in lieu of a voter registration certificate.

Even as additional states seek to pass more restrictive voter ID legislation, mounting evidence suggests that stricter voter ID laws actually do very little to ensure polling-place integrity.

The Politics of Voter Fraud Study by Lorraine Minnite PDF
According to Barnard College Professor Loraine Minnite, the available state-level evidence of fraudulent voting, culled from interviews, reviews of newspaper coverage and court proceedings, shows that only 32 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting in the U.S. between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year.

While there is no actual evidence of voter fraud, many studies, such as conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, find that U.S. citizens of Latino, Asian American and African American heritage are less likely to vote as a result of increasingly restrictive voter ID requirements.

The Eagleton study examined the 2004 election and concluded that in states requiring voters to present an ID at the polls, 2.7 percent fewer citizens were likely to vote than in states where voters were merely required to register so that their name and address appears in the voting precinct poll book on election day.

According to the Eagleton study Latinos are 10 percent less likely to vote, Asian-Americans are 8.5 percent less likely to vote and African Americans are 5.7 percent less likely to vote.

Each of the groups listed in the Eagleton study tend to vote for Democratic candidates and are a growing percentage of Texas voters. The success of Democratic voter registration drives among these Texas groups in 2008 threatens to tip the balance of power away from the Republicans. As the tide of Democratic voters continues to grow across Texas, voter ID legislation would be an effective way for Republicans to hold back the tide.

Consequently, the use of baseless "voter fraud" allegations to promote voter ID legislation has become such an urgent priority for Republicans in the 2009 legislative session that Republicans in the Texas Senate felt compelled to change long standing Senate rules to advance the legislation.

The Eagleton Institute research is supported by findings from a November 2006 poll conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

The Brennan Center poll found that as many as 11 percent of American citizens, more than 21 million individuals, do not have a current, government-issued photo ID. Elderly, poor and minority Americans are more likely to lack government-issued ID.

Voting rights advocates say that requiring photo identification threatens to disenfranchise many older Americans, a voting bloc with traditionally strong turnout. Senior citizens are less likely to have driver’s licenses or birth certificates, which are often needed to obtain a government ID.

Brennan Center research suggest six million elderly Americans do not possess a government-issued photo ID. Additionally, 15 percent of voting-age citizens earning under $35,000 a year do not possess such ID and fully 25 percent of voting-age African Americans do not possess this ID.

Further, according to the Brennan Center, as many as 13 million U.S. citizens, or seven percent, do not have ready access to citizenship documents of the type required by most state voter id legislation. This makes the requirement to obtain a government-issued photo ID in order to vote an unduly onerous equivalent of a "Jim Crow" poll tax.

Texans already must request and be granted a voter registration card from their county Election Registrar's office thirty days in advance of an election. New registration applicants must provide their current address and Driver's License number or their Social Security Number on the voter registration application.

The applicant's county Election Registrar along with the Texas Secretary of State are required to authenticate citizenship and all other information given on the voter registration application against Texas motor vehicle records or the U.S. Social Security Administration before approving the application and granting "active" voter registration status.

Further, county Election Registrars and the Texas Secretary of State actively track registered voter change of address and death notices and other official record updates to automatically suspend a voter's registration on any change of status.

There is no evidence of voter fraud in the Lone Star State.
. . .Steve Raborn, elections administrator for Tarrant County, said a two-year investigation by his office of questionable voter registrations in 2004 and 2005 found only three noncitizens on the county voter rolls, and they were later removed.

. . .
The county officials said voter fraud was difficult to carry out in Texas because each applicant must submit a driver's license number or Social Security number, which is entered into a statewide electronic database and checked by the secretary of state's office. Applicants are sent a voting card and officially added to the rolls only if there are no discrepancies and the secretary of state's office approves the application.
There is a long history in America of certain groups using allegations of voter fraud to restrict and shape the electorate.

In the late nineteenth century, when newly freed black Americans were swept into electoral politics to become a voting majority, white Southern Democrats threatened by the loss of power justified the so called "Jim Crow" voting laws by alleging "voter fraud" by black voters.

Many 20th Century "Jim Crow" Southern Democrats switched to the Republican Party after President Franklin Roosevelt, President John Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson championed voters' rights and the elimination of "Jim Crow" type laws.

Cross Posted at DMN Trail Blazers Blog

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