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Common Sense for our Democracy
By Mark "Thor" Hearne


September 20, 2005

In 21st century America, we require a photo ID to drive cars, cash checks, buy a beer, travel and rent videos. Almost every convenience store counter in America has a sign that announces "ID REQUIRED." Photo ID requirements ensure that people are who they say they are. The requirement has been established as sound public policy to address the unfortunate willingness of some to lie, cheat, or steal. Our local polling places are surely more important and sacred than the local 7-11 store. So why not our elections?

Requiring photo-ID as a protection of our election system is increasingly becoming an issue that both parties can agree on. Former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young stated that "requiring ID can help poor people" in an age when people must have it to rent videos or cash a check. He noted that Georgia is working with the NAACP and other groups to send the state voter ID bus to go to neighborhoods of their choosing. National Public Radio commentator and author of a definitive book on the civil rights movement, Juan Williams, recently told Fox News: "I'm telling you, ID is a good thing. We want a credible election process in this country for everybody..." Finally, former President Jimmy Carter, who co-chairs the Carter-Baker Commission for election reform, has joined the Commission's recommendation that voters provide photo ID before casting a ballot.

In the face of common sense the ACLU, the Democratic Party and their liberal allies continue to oppose the requirement that a voter establish their identity with a government-issued photo ID. They have already attacked Indiana and Georgia for passing photo ID laws. They claim that government-issued photo ID is an unconstitutional "poll tax" even when the ID is free of charge. They continue to apply their outdated model to a new world.

These left-wing political groups claim that requiring voters to present photo ID will discriminate against homeless, elderly and low-income citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth. Requiring a voter to provide ID can not and will not discriminate against any American citizen who is eligible to vote. For the past two centuries, America has made tremendous strides extending the franchise to every citizen older than 18, regardless of sex, race, income status, or political preference. The Voting Rights Act has played an important role in ensuring this progress and will continue to do so. Voter ID does nothing to take away the treasured rights for which so many Americans have sacrificed. The only obligation for a voter to obtain a photo ID is for the voter to be photographed. That is all. No cost to the voter. No proof of property ownership or income status. No literacy tests. No special poll taxes. No proof of religion or oath. That is about as fair and free as it gets.

Opponents of photo ID requirements typically cite a lack of evidence of vote fraud as a key rationale for opposing reform. But the facts do not support their position. For example, in the same week that the New York Times called Georgia's voter ID law a "national disgrace," the paper reported on a new study of New Jersey voter rolls finding that nearly 5,000 dead people voted in the 2004 presidential election. Countless examples of election fraud were documented in a new national report released last month by the American Center for Voting Rights Legislative Fund. Consider just a few outrageous examples of criminal vote fraud activity documented in the report: The presidential race in Wisconsin and the gubernatorial race in Washington state were decided by ballots illegally cast in the names of dead people, felons and fictional voters. Hundreds of imaginary characters such as Dick Tracy and Mary Poppins were registered to vote in Ohio in exchange for crack cocaine. New York City's voter rolls included cartoon characters such as Elmer Fudd. Unlike real American voters, Elmer Fudd, Dick Tracy, and Mary Poppins will not be able to obtain a photo-ID. And, real Americans will not be disenfranchised by having their ballots cancelled by one illegally cast by Elmer Fudd.

Our Founding Fathers fought a revolution on the premise that citizens ought to have the right to choose their own government leaders. The United States Supreme Court wrote that "Free and honest elections are the very foundation of our republican form of government. Hence any attempt to defile the sanctity of the ballot cannot be viewed with equanimity," and cautioned that "It must be remembered that 'the right of suffrage can be denied by debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen's vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise."

Today, one of the most common ways by which any citizen is denied a voice in the process of electing our leaders is by having his ballot cancelled by one fraudulently cast. Sadly, over the years, thousands of honest and legal American citizens have been disenfranchised in this very manner.

One of the best protections against vote fraud is for individual states to pass legislation that requires a voter to provide photo identification in order to cast a ballot. With photo ID, it becomes very difficult for fraud merchants, forgers and other electoral hooligans to cast ballots in the name of Elmer Fudd, their pet cocker spaniel or those residing in the local cemetery. (All of which have occurred in past elections.)

Photo ID is a common-sense solution whose time has come. It is a solid safeguard and insurance policy against vote fraud which undoubtedly exists. With so many Americans already having identification and the everyday requirements to use it - the real question becomes why certain liberal groups oppose photo ID so vigorously. The only conclusion is that they wish to use minorities as a stalking horse to keep the door to vote fraud open. In this way, they can influence the outcome of elections that they know their candidates cannot easily win. At a time when the rest of the world is looking to America for democratic leadership, it's high time we clean up our own house. Government-issued photo ID - provided without cost to the voter - will go a long way toward securing our electoral integrity and providing Americans the confidence that the leaders we have chosen are truly those elected by voters, not by special interests trying to game the system through vote fraud.



Mark "Thor" Hearne is Counsel to the American Center for Voting Rights.



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