By Alice Dubenetsky
As we approach the final run-up to the 2012 general elections, the issue of whether or not a valid ID should be required to vote is heating up across America. On one side are those who see no reason not to require identification at the polls. They argue that ID’s are required in a myriad of places on a daily basis, including public libraries, rental agencies, hotels and liquor stores. Valid ID’s are easily obtained by any legal resident of the U.S., and include drivers licenses, state issued ID’s and passports. Protecting the integrity of the polling places during elections is so important, they argue, that ID’s should clearly be required to prove you are who you claim to be, and that you are a legal citizen. While voting is a right, it is one that should be protected and not left wide open to fraud.
On the other side, opponents of voter ID laws stridently assert that they disproportionately dis-enfranchises minorities. It’s a tough argument to make, since almost everyone who has ever cashed a check, purchased a drink in a bar or a bottle in a liquor store, rented a car or other equipment, checked into a hotel, or flown on a commercial airliner has had to show a valid form of identification before being allowed to proceed. ID’s are universal in all areas of today’s society and it is not credible to argue that minority populations are barred from these activities because they lack identification.
Enter United States Attorney General Eric Holder, a man unafraid to use racial fears to further the Obama administration’s left leaning agenda – even if it means chipping away at public confidence in the integrity of our electoral system. Holders Justice Department recently took on the state of Florida, asking them to halt a purge of their voter rolls that is intended to clear the list of non-citizens before the general election. The Justice Department claims that the purge appears to violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act. However, it also appears that Florida is willing to stand up to the DOJ and will not comply with the federal warning. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he plans to continue the purge. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot,” said a spokesman for the Detzner’s office. “We are not going to give up our efforts to make sure the voter rolls are accurate.”
Holder, however, continues to exhibit an unseemly willingness to play racial politics. In a recent address to the Council of Black Churches, Holder equated voter ID laws with white discrimination, going so far as to suggest that “some of the achievements that defined civil rights laws now hang in the balance.” This is a fairly shocking statement for an Attorney General to make. Surely Holder is aware that voter ID laws have been upheld by the Supreme Court. In a 2008 challenge to Indiana’s voter identification law, the court upheld by a 6-3 vote the state’s right to require photo ID at the polling place, declaring that the law is not unconstitutional and that the state has a valid interest in improving election procedures as well as deterring fraud.
Predictably, Senator Charles Shumer of New York blasted the Supreme Court decision, responding that “this decision is a body blow to what America stands for – equal access to the polls.” Unfortunately the Senator’s sound bite is not supported by facts, which actually indicate that voter ID laws increased minority voter turnout in at least two states (Georgia and Indiana) by large percentages.
Indiana House member Brain Bosma quickly dismissed specious complaints like Shumer’s. “This law is only a burden for those who want to vote more than once,” he said in an interview with the New York Times. “It protects everyone.”
That state of Vermont has no voter ID requirement, which recently prompted conservative activist James O’Keefe of Project Veritas (in association with Breitbart.com) to target the state. On March 6th, he surreptitiously videotaped members of his team giving the names of deceased voters to poll workers in Chittenden County polling places. The team members were offered ballots, although they volunteered the information that they did not have ID’s. When they pressed poll workers, they were told that ID’s are not required, which is correct. O’Keefe released his video on-line, claiming that it exposes “voter fraud friendly policies” in Vermont.
The video set off a flurry of concern among Vermont officials, and prompted GOP Chairman Jack Lindley to ask Secretary of State Jim Condos to investigate irregularities. In a Rutland Herald article, Lindley was quoted as saying “If we have to show identification to get on an airplane, we surely ought to show ID at the ballots.” But he added, “I don’t think regular old Vermonters like me need to have concern that there are people voting in elections that aren’t (registered voters).”
Vermont Democrat Party Executive Director Jesse Bragg had a different take on the O’Keefe video. “He’s a radical right-wing activist and he is presenting a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Bragg.
All of this may possibly raise concerns of voter fraud in Vermont’s larger towns but the Project Veritas team lacks a basic understanding of how small towns in Vermont operate their polling places. Vermont Town Clerks are, for the most part, quite vigilant in making sure check lists are purged of non-residents and the deceased. In many of our small towns at least one poll worker is likely to recognize just about every voter and the Town Clerk will more often than not remember registering new-comers to town. On voting day each voter must declare his or her name, and is then checked in, handed a ballot or ballots, votes, and is then checked out. After the polls close the number of ballots must equal the number of people checked off on both lists.
It’s possible that poll workers could create mischief with the ballots, but it’s probably much less likely here in Vermont than in larger metropolitan areas. However, the fact that O’Keefe’s team were readily given ballots in the name of deceased residents, and the fact that two Vermont House races in 2010 were decided by just one vote, could reinforce arguments for voter ID laws in Vermont, if only to counterbalance basic human error and flaws in the voter check-lists.
In an exquisite bit of irony and unambiguous hypocrisy, organizers of the Massachusetts Democrat party convention June 2nd declared that a photo ID was required to enter the MassMutual Center and to have access to the convention floor. This requirement was spelled out in capital letters on page 14 of their Delegate Guide. What’s good for the goose….? No, make that what’s good for the Donkey… should certainly be good enough for the rest of America.