Making Election Reform An Issue In November
June 5, 2018 | Townhall
ACRU’s Policy Board member and senior fellow Ken Blackwell
For anyone committed to constitutional government, California looks like a lost cause. The political battle rages between the radical-extreme and moderate-extreme. People and businesses are being driven out of the state.
Yet at least one sensible candidate has picked up the banner of good government for November. Election law attorney Mark Meuser is running as a Republican for secretary of state. He promises to clean up election rolls and assure voter integrity.
That such a position is a controversial issue rather than conventional wisdom demonstrates the problem facing America. A survey of electoral integrity last year placed the U.S. only in the top third globally. In terms of public perception of electoral honesty, the U.S. was near the bottom internationally.
Domestically the Pew Research Center ranked California as number 49 in electoral integrity. Meuser pointed to the failure to maintain clean election rolls. Overall, 101 percent of California’s citizens are registered to vote. Eleven counties have more people registered than eligible citizens. The rate is 138 percent in San Diego County and 144 percent in Los Angeles.
There are other problems. Only 16 percent of absentee ballots to military personnel are returned, far fewer than in other states. Meuser talked to some of these putative voters and found that many never received a ballot.
He also cited illegal voting. People who died decades ago remain registered. CBS discovered hundreds of votes seemingly cast by people after they had died. Last October a Mexican national was charged with using a dead person’s identity to vote for 25 years!
Requiring voters to show identification obviously would help eliminate the graveyard precinct, but, noted Meuser, “For the last 20 years, the Democratic Party has been in charge, and generally the Democratic Party is not interested in voter ID.”
A determined secretary of state could make a dramatic difference. He or she could do even better if paired with an attorney general dedicated to the rule of law. For instance, Republican candidate Judge Steven Bailey, running for California attorney general, promised: “We are going to investigate it.” He said one of “the first things we are going to do to find out how L.A. County can have 144 percent voter registration.”
It’s a great question that deserves an answer.
State and county officials surely know that California is a virtual open door for illegal immigration. Yet they appear to welcome those who violate the law. Nearly a million “undocumented” people have California driver’s licenses. Medi-Cal, that is, Medicaid, admits that “a large percentage of” enrollees are non-citizens many of them in the state illegally.
Moreover, state agencies have embarked upon a program to register voters, with an emphasis on numbers. The secretary of state’s training program for county officials reported that “since 2013, voter registration at non-DMV voter registration agencies has increased dramatically.” Which, of course, is not the same thing as legal registration of eligible citizens.
Landmark Legal Foundation charged that “the State of California is engaging in a systematic policy of willful blindness in failing to ensure ineligible, noncitizens are kept off voter rolls.” Social service agencies register voters, but do not ensure that only citizens apply. Government does not use data collected to confirm the eligibility of those registered. And no one removes those who are ineligible from the rolls. Policy appears designed to maximize illegal voting: public agencies facilitate illegal registrations, with the largest number coming through welfare departments, while neither counties nor state screen those registered.
Unfortunately, the problem of “dirty” election rolls, including erroneous and fraudulent voting, is a national epidemic. Millions of people are believed to be registered illegally nationwide—-some non-citizens, some citizens with multiple registrations. The dead also fill the rolls. In Pennsylvania the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) discovered centenarians and even double-centenarians still voting.
ACRU has filed cases in Florida, Mississippi, and Texas against county election officials who have failed to clean up rolls filled with ineligible voters. It’s case against Broward County, Florida is now headed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In Texas the group’s efforts have been augmented by a local district attorney. However, ACRU has been opposed every step of the way by the well-heeled Left, including foundations and public-sector unions. Cynics might wonder if they actually favor illegal voting.
Democracy is based on the integrity of the electoral system. Protecting the latter requires electing candidates like Mark Meuser.
But as Americans long ago learned, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. We cannot just leave the job to others. We also must fight for electoral integrity. Benjamin Franklin told the woman who accosted him after the Constitutional Convention that the Founders had created “a republic, if you can keep it.” The vital responsibility of keeping it now is ours.