Real ID, Voter Fraud, and Early Voting

I am glad to see Governor O’Malley is now on the right side of the Real ID issue. Maryland will be Real ID compliant by 2010. On a related note, I hear Transportation Secretary John Porcari is and recuperating well after being hit by a bus.

In addition to an added layer of security, see here, Real ID has another benefit—protecting the integrity of our elections. Driver’s licenses are the main form of identification required to register to vote and we know that Maryland currently issues licenses to non citizens. What checks are in place to stop non citizens from voting in our elections? None. Senator Richard Colburn has introduced legislation that would help protect our electoral process until Real ID is fully implemented. Colburn’s bill (SB34) would require a birth certificate, passport (current or expired) or proof of naturalization from the federal government in order to register to vote. Once Real ID is implemented the law could be amended to accept a Real ID compliant license. It is a good idea. See why below the fold.

Democrats and liberals cried foul and leveled charges of voter fraud in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. However, when the Bush Justice Department decided to prosecute cases of voter fraud by liberal groups they claim the cases were cooked up by GOP partisans. The difference being that the Democrats won in 2006 so there couldn’t possibly be any voter fraud.

John Fund at the Wall Street Journal put that fallacy to rest and revealed factual cases of election fraud by liberal groups, in particular the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). ACORN is backed by labor unions and receives funding from George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

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But the most interesting news came out of Seattle, where on Thursday local prosecutors indicted seven workers for Acorn, a union-backed activist group that last year registered more than 540,000 low-income and minority voters nationwide and deployed more than 4,000 get-out-the-vote workers. The Acorn defendants stand accused of submitting phony forms in what Secretary of State Sam Reed says is the “worst case of voter-registration fraud in the history” of the state.

The list of “voters” registered in Washington state included former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, New York Times columnists Frank Rich and Tom Friedman, actress Katie Holmes and nonexistent people with nonsensical names such as Stormi Bays and Fruto Boy. The addresses used for the fake names were local homeless shelters. Given that the state doesn’t require the showing of any identification before voting, it is entirely possible people could have illegally voted using those names.

Local officials refused to accept the registrations because they had been delivered after last year’s Oct. 7 registration deadline. Initially, Acorn officials demanded the registrations be accepted and threatened to sue King County (Seattle) officials if they were tossed out. But just after four Acorn registration workers were indicted in Kansas City, Mo., on similar charges of fraud, the group reversed its position and said the registrations should be rejected. But by then, local election workers had had a reason to carefully scrutinize the forms and uncovered the fraud. Of the 1,805 names submitted by Acorn, only nine have been confirmed as valid, and another 34 are still being investigated. The rest–over 97%–were fake.

In Kansas City, where two Acorn workers have pleaded guilty to committing registration fraud last year while two others await trial, only 40% of the 35,000 registrations submitted by the group turned out to be bogus. But Melody Powell, chairman of the Kansas City Board of Elections, says Acorn’s claim that it brought the fraud in her city to light is “seriously misleading.” She says her staff first took the evidence to the FBI, and only then Acorn helped identify the perpetrators. “It’s a potential recipe for fraud,” she says, noting that “anyone can find a voter card mailed to a false apartment building address lying around a lobby and use it to vote.” Ms. Powell also worries that legitimate voters who were registered a second time by someone else under a false address might find it difficult to vote.

In Washington state, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said that in lieu of charging Acorn itself as part of the registration fraud case, he had worked out an agreement by which the group will pay $25,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation and formally agree to tighten supervision of its activities, which Mr. Satterberg said were rife with “lax oversight.”

Last year several Acorn employees told me that the Acorn scandals that have cropped up around the country are no accident. “There’s no quality control on purpose, no checks and balances,” says Nate Toler, who was head of an Acorn campaign against Wal-Mart in California until late last year, when Acorn fired him for speaking to me.

Loretta Barton, another former community organizer for Acorn, told me that “all Acorn wanted from registration drives was results.” Ironically, given Acorn’s strong backing from unions, Ms. Barton alleges that when she and her co-workers asked about forming a union, they were slapped down: “We were told if you get a union, you won’t have a job.” There is some history here: In 2003, the National Labor Relations Board ordered Acorn to rehire and pay restitution to three employees it had illegally fired for trying to organize a union.

Liberals get in a tizzy when conservatives argue for identification requirements to protect the integrity of the electoral process. They conjure up images of the poll tax and other Jim Crow era voter suppression tactics. They can’t ague on the merits of their case so they make racist allusions to proponents of strict identification for voter registration.

Make what you will of the Indiana case before the Supreme Court. However, if your voter registration process is secure with registrants providing proof of citizenship at that point, you seriously cut down on fraud committed at the polling place. Personally I would still like the added layer of fraud protection that presentation of ID at the polling place provides. Indiana provides their voter ID cards free of charge.

Liberals have a valid point about the integrity of electronic voting machines and the very real problems of hacking into them and the lack of a paper trail, John Kane’s contract with Diebold notwithstanding. On a side note I found it interesting Wired talked to David Paulson about conflicts of interest given that his wife, Donna Hamilton, is an anchor and reporter for WBAL TV, who helped fuel the false rumor that Henry Fawell was behind O’Malley Watch.

Anyway, I am in favor of a paper trail. But this begs the question. What good is a paper trail as a fraud protection method, if you can’t prevent fraudulent voter registration and voting in the first place? Remember that slots are not the only referendum on the ballot in 2008. During the 2007 session, the General Assembly passed another referendum to allow voters to add early voting to the constitution. Passage of the early voting referendum, along with our already unsecured voter registration process, “vote early and often” would be SOP in Maryland.

crossposted on The Main Adversary

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