This column by ACRU policy board members Edwin Meese III and Kenneth Blackwell was published November 2, 2014 on the USA Today website.
Once upon a time, Americans got together on Election Day, went to the polls, and chose our leaders. Voting on the same day helped bind us together as self-governing citizens in a free republic. It even felt like a national holiday — Independence Day without the fireworks.
Except for those traveling or who are infirm and who can use absentee ballots, Election Day puts everyone in the same boat. As a civic exercise in equality, it is unparalleled. It has the added advantage of making vote fraud more difficult, since there is a very short window in which to commit it.
But over the past few decades, election laws have been relaxed in the name of convenience, with “reforms” such as early voting, same-day registration, Sunday and evening voting hours, no-excuse absentee voting and allowing out-of-precinct ballots. All of these increase the possibility of vote fraud.
At the same time, despite a clear mandate in the National Voter Registration Act (also known as the Motor Voter Law) to keep accurate registrations, the system has grown lax; election authorities have left millions on the voter rolls who should not be there.
A 2012 study by the Pew Center on the States found 1.8 million deceased people were registered to vote, and 24 million invalid or inaccurate registrations. An ACRU review of voter rolls around the nation in 2013 found more than 200 counties with more voters registered than age-eligible, legal residents. The ACRU has won historic consent decrees in federal court requiring two Mississippi counties to clean up their voter rolls and is now litigating in Texas.
In Rhode Island, according to the Providence Journal, 20 of the Ocean State’s 39 municipalities “from the largest city to the smallest town, had more registered voters than it had citizens old enough to vote.” Rhode Island has about 770,000 adult citizens of whom 73.5%, or 566,000, are registered to vote, according to the U.S. Census. But 748,000 people are registered — a discrepancy of 182,000.
Perhaps this helps explain why the legislature, with heavy support from black lawmakers, was the only Democrat-controlled state to enact a photo voter ID law in 2011. When Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chaffee signed the bill into law, Democratic State Sen. Harold Metts issued this statement:
“As a minority citizen and a senior citizen I would not support anything that I thought would present obstacles or limit protections. But in this day and age, very few adults lack one of the forms of identification that will be accepted, and the rare person who does can get a free voter ID card from the secretary of state. While I’m sensitive to the concerns raised, at this point I am more interested in doing the right thing and stopping voter fraud.”
In 2008, American University surveyed registered voters in Maryland, Indiana and Mississippi and found that less than 0.5% lacked a government-issued ID. That flies in the face of the oft-quoted, absurd claim that 25% of minorities lack a valid photo ID.
The claim is that since black voters are more likely to be poor, they can’t be expected to overcome inconveniences in the registration and voting process.
That is the same, soft bigotry of low expectations cited against photo voter-ID laws, which consistently have wide support. A Rasmussen Reports national poll of likely voters released in August found 74% approved of voter-ID laws, including 64% of blacks, 56% of Democrats and 76% of independents.
Besides opposing voter ID laws, the liberals have been championing same-day registration and early voting. Both make it easier to commit fraud, and they have other flaws, as noted by former Justice Department Voting Section attorney J. Christian Adams:
“Early voting produces less-informed voters. After they cast an early ballot, they check out of the national debate. They won’t care about the televised debates, won’t consider options, and won’t fully participate in the political process…. Early voting is extremely expensive. When election officials drag out an election for weeks, that means more poll workers, more broken machines, more salaries, more costs, more everything…. Early voting doesn’t increase turnout. Studies have shown that states that adopt early voting have no empirical turnout increase.”
The left’s latest push is online registration and online voting, in which people never even have to show up to register or to cast a ballot. Proponents argue that it could increase voter participation. But we see a highway to fraud getting ever wider.
It’s time we ended early voting and same-day registration, enforced voter-ID laws, and restored Election Day’s importance to all Americans.