This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell and ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published December 30, 2011 on Big Government.
Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an all-out war on voter-ID laws and other measures to safeguard the electoral process. Although Holder’s actions are purportedly to prevent African-Americans from being disenfranchised, the reality is that they serve the crass political purpose of ensuring that Holder’s boss gets reelected next year.
In the past several years states have increasingly focused on measures to protect the vote. After years of the federal government loosening voting regulations, such as through the Motor Voter Act and HAVA (Help America Vote Act), the pendulum started swinging back at the state level.
The clearest example of this trend is through voter-ID laws. In 2008 the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s landmark law requiring citizens to show that they are the person they claim to be by showing government-issued ID before casting a ballot. But to ensure that those without driver’s licenses or passports are not disenfranchised, Indiana provides free ID’s to everyone who applies for one. The Court upheld this law, with the primary opinion written by no one less than liberal lion Justice John Paul Stevens.
Such laws combat voter fraud that we see on Election Day, especially in certain parts of the nation. In Washington State, King County suddenly “discovered” enough previously “unnoticed” votes for Democrat Christine Gregoire to edge out Republican Dino Rossi for Washington’s governorship in 2004. There are also examples from Wisconsin, Missouri, and other states.
Yet Holder has blocked South Carolina’s voter-ID law. DOJ argues that this law is different from Indiana’s because South Carolina is subject to additional federal oversight under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. (This is especially important because there are several federal cases challenging the constitutionality of Section 5.)
But the reality is that DOJ’s actions are not focused on protecting voting rights. They are instead intended to make sure that Barack Obama wins reelection.
It’s not cynical to say this. The twelve or so battleground states that will decide the 2012 presidential election suggest Obama’s reelection strategy. These states include Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri. All these states have large African-American populations.
The African-American community has a staggeringly-high unemployment rate under President Obama. So Black Americans will not vote for this president because of any prosperity he’s brought to that community. Instead, he has to gin up their votes by painting a picture of racial conflict in which he–and the governmental agency dealing with such things, DOJ–is their champion.
This is also seen in Holder’s incessant playing of the race card. First he says we’re a nation of cowards about race. Now that he’s on the ropes for DOJ’s scandalous Operation Fast and Furious gun-running scandal into Mexico, he has the audacity to say that he and President Obama are being attacked in part because they’re both African-Americans.
Voting is a fundamental right. It is the means by which “We the People” consent to be governed for a fixed period of time by certain individuals, by electing them as stewards of governmental power. They wield this power to secure our rights as set forth in the U.S. Constitution and (for state officials) the constitutions of the fifty states.
But there is another voting right. It is the right not to have your legal vote diluted by fraudulent votes. As we explain in our Yale Law & Policy Review article “The Other Voting Right,” every invalid vote cancels out one valid vote. Each such cancellation undermines our democratic republic and reduces the legitimacy of election results.
Voting is also unique in that it might be the only right that is also a duty. It’s not too much to ask for citizens to exert a minimal amount of effort to fulfill reasonable regulations to protect the integrity of the electoral process.
Every eligible citizen has a duty to vote. But as we explain in our book Resurgent: How Constitutional Conservatism Can Save America, it is a duty to cast an informed vote. Although there are only so many hours in the day, we each need to make an effort to gather enough information to understand the major issues facing our nation, state, and community, and to carefully vote for candidates who offer the best solutions for our long-term safety and prosperity.
Because voting is a duty, and also because every voter has the right to ensure their valid vote is not diluted by fraudulent votes, citizens can be expected to fulfill certain requirements that would not be justified when exercising other rights, such as free speech or the free exercise of religion. Measures such as showing up at the correct place on the correct day to cast a ballot under the watchful eyes of trained precinct personnel are examples of fulfilling our duty, as is showing valid ID to prove that you are the person listed on that precinct’s voter rolls.
These measures are essential to our self-governing republic. As examples the world over show, losing the integrity of the electoral process is a mistake a free people often gets to make only once.