On February 27, Democratic Perspective continued its discussion of GOP-backed voter ID laws which seem to be aimed at suppressing the vote of minorities, students and the elderly.
Republicans insist the laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. However, numerous studies have shown that voter fraud is virtually non-existent. For example, a recent campaign in the state of Washington designed to expose voter fraud found only one person who may have voted twice. Similarly, the GOP in North Carolina claimed that 950 dead people had voted in the last election. Yet an exhaustive study proved the claims to be untrue. The study found no instances of voter fraud. But it did find that 3 voters had died before their absentee ballots could be counted.
Further, a five-year investigation into voter fraud ordered by the Bush administration resulted in only 86 convictions for voter fraud. And many of those charged were people who mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood voting rules.
Nevertheless, Republicans keep complaining about widespread voter fraud as a smokescreen to justify voter ID laws. If Republicans succeed, the new laws could have a profound effect on the outcome of the next election. At least three scholarly studies have concluded that Voter ID laws lower voter turnout by throwing up an extra barrier to casting a ballot, particularly among less educated and lower income populations.
Looking at just one of the key battleground states for 2012, as many as 1 million registered voters in North Carolina currently lack a photo ID. African-Americans make up 22 percent of active North Carolina voters, but are 32 percent of those without a photo ID. And seniors over age 65 are 20 percent of the state’s active voters, but are 32 percent of those without a photo ID.
As Rev. Al Sharpton recently stated, “The current push for photo IDs is not intended to fix a problem, but to fix an election.”
Of course, there are other ways to rig election results in addition to voter ID laws. One is to limit the number of voting machines available, especially in minority neighborhoods and on college campuses. In 2004 and 2008, there were numerous instances of this, forcing students and African-Americans to wait in line for hours in order to vote.
And, of course, there is the most famous example of all – the 2000 election in Florida – where people with names similar to those of felons were denied their right to vote and where many unsigned absentee ballots were counted. A study by the National Opinion Research Center sponsored by a consortium of major US news organizations found that Al Gore still would have lost the election in Florida had his request for a limited recount not been denied by the Supreme Court. However, the same study found that a statewide recount of all ballots likely would have resulted in a different outcome making Al Gore the 43rd President of the United States.
Bringing the voter fraud debate closer to home, there have been rumors in Sedona that Yavapai County had unfairly removed voters from the rolls. But when Mike Cosentino researched the matter with Leslie Hoffman, the new Yavapai County Recorder, he found that the rumors are simply untrue. What he found is that if you fail to vote in two consecutive federal elections, you are put on an inactive list and sent a mailing. To be reinstated, you need only call the Recorder’s office or respond to the mailing.
So, although voter suppression is very real in many parts of the US, there is no reason for concern in Yavapai County.
To learn more, visit the following websites: http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_voter_identification/