Houston — The 2012 elections will feature many close races, likely including the presidential contest. That makes concern about voter fraud and ballot integrity all the more meaningful, and a conference held here last weekend by the watchdog group True the Vote made clear just how high the stakes are.
“Unfortunately, the United States has a long history of voter fraud that has been documented by historians and journalists,” Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in 2008, upholding a strict Indiana voter-ID law designed to combat fraud. Justice Stevens, who personally encountered voter fraud while serving on various reform commissions in his native Chicago, spoke for a six-member majority. In a decision two years earlier clearing the way for an Arizona ID law, the Court had declared in a unanimous opinion that “confidence in the integrity of our electoral processes is essential to the functioning of our participatory democracy. Voter fraud drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and breeds distrust of our government. Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised.”
Indeed, a brand-new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that 64 percent of Americans believe voter fraud is a serious problem, with whites registering 63 percent agreement and African-Americans 64 percent. A Fox News poll taken last month found that 70 percent of Americans support requiring voters to show “state or federally issued photo identification” to prove their identity and citizenship before casting a ballot. Majorities of all demographic groups agreed on the need for photo ID, including 58 percent of non-white voters, 52 percent of liberals, and 52 percent of Democrats.
Catherine Englebrecht, the Houston businesswoman and mother who founded True the Vote in 2009 after witnessing an ACORN-style group registering thousands of illegal or nonexistent voters in Houston, told the voter observers from 32 states gathered for the summit: “There is nothing more important this year than your work in making sure legitimate votes aren’t canceled out by fraud.”
Liberal groups ranging from the ACLU to the NAACP oppose voter-ID laws, claiming that voter fraud is almost nonexistent and that an ID requirement would amount to voter suppression. It’s certainly true that in-person voter fraud — the type of fraud most easily fought with voter-ID laws — isn’t the whole picture. Voter-ID laws must be combined with tighter controls on absentee ballots, the tool of choice of fraudsters. But filmmaker James O’Keefe demonstrated just last month how easy — and almost impossible to detect — voter impersonation can be: A white 22-year-old assistant of O’Keefe’s was offered the Washington, D.C., primary ballot of Attorney General Eric Holder, the most visible opponent of ID laws.
Just this week in Fort Worth, Texas, a Democratic precinct chairwoman was indicted on charges of arranging an illegal vote. Hazel Woodard James has been charged with conspiring with her non-registered son to have him vote in place of his father. The only reason the crime was detected was that the father showed up later in the day to vote at the same precinct. Most fraudsters are smart enough to have their accomplices cast votes in the names of dead people on the voter rolls, who are highly unlikely to appear and complain that someone else voted in their place.