“Reviving Jim Crow?”

That’s the hyperbolic title of a column by David Becker, a “voting rights” consultant, in today’s Washington Post. In his column, Becker writes

Any day now the Justice Department will render judgment on one of the single most discriminatory pieces of voting legislation of recent years: a Georgia state law requiring voters to present one of only six forms of photo identification before they can exercise their right to vote. Before enforcing this statute, Georgia must get Justice Department approval by proving that the law will not put minority voters in a worse position than they were in before the requirement was instituted.

The facts surrounding Georgia’s voter identification requirement cannot be disputed. Virtually every black legislator opposes the legislation, and most black lawmakers staged a walkout to protest its passage. Every major civil rights and minority advocacy group, including the NAACP, and many legal scholars, oppose the restriction; several have submitted comments to the Justice Department for consideration.

“Even Mexico has a photo ID requirement for voting”

I’d like to put a diplomatic gloss on Mr. Becker’s column, but it is utterly stupid. According to Becker, the law is “one of the single most discriminatory pieces of voting legislation” because “virtually every black legislator opposes the legislation” [Note: he cannot say “all black legislators” because in fact not all were opposed] and the NAACP “oppose the restriction.” That’s brilliant logic. Logic similar to the logic that says the war in Iraq is wrong because the anti-war movement says so.

Becker also cites how hard it is to get a photo ID in Georgia using the canard that “though the state has 159 counties, there are only 56 places in which residents can obtain a driver’s license.” Mr. Becker fails to mention that concurrent with the photo ID legislation, Georgia undertook reforms of how drivers licenses are obtained and has even set up a mobile station that can travel to you. Also, the photo ID law only requires a photo ID — it can be an expired drivers license.

What evidence does Mr. Becker have to suggestion this legislation has “a disproportionately negative impact on blacks and other minorities”? Becker writes

The Justice Department found as recently as a decade ago that blacks in Louisiana were four to five times less likely than whites to have photo IDs.

Well, why don’t we look at some numbers that are not ten years old. How about these facts:

  • A study by the Atlanta Journal in 2000, found that 5,412 dead people had voted in Georgia since 1980.
  • 6,675,100 voting-age Georgians had a state issued photo id. That’s 2,260,437 more than were registered to vote.
  • Fulton County recently received 2,456 voter registration applications that appeared to be fraudulent. According to Harry W. MacDougald of the Fulton Board of Elections, those registrations were discovered because the board sent letters to 8,112 applicants whose registration forms had missing information. Of those, the board got only 55 responses.
  • Between the primary and general election in 2004, Fulton County received 45,907 new registrations. When precinct cards were mailed to the addresses provided, 3,071 were returned as undeliverable. Of those, 921 people still managed to vote in November.
  • Georgia provides no paper trail for electronic voting. Once a vote is entered into the vote pool, it cannot be pulled back out.

Mr. Becker sees racism and discrimination where none exists. Photo ID requirements are widely popular as a common sense method to help stop voter fraud. Photo ID is required to now enter most federal buildings. Even Mexico has a photo ID requirement for voting — a requirement Vicente Fox credits with helping stamp out vote fraud to a degree that enabled his party to rise to power. Why shouldn’t the most sacred right of our democracy be protected as best we can against fraud?

9 comments

  1. Rebel says:

    The groups that oppose this common-sense reform have a reason to oppose it. They have relied on fraud, money on the streets, etc. for years to win elections. And it becomes painfully obvious in close elections.

    We should tag them with the labels of frauds and cheaters in the same manner as they try to tag republicans with the label of racists. The evidence is on our side. So’s public opinion. Unless we lay down on this issue. You go Bill!

  2. kspencer says:

    Again – vote fraud (even in Georgia) has been historically shown to be a bipartisan activity. It tends to be the party in power that is most responsible for the occurrence as the party in power is the one that can pull off most of the methods of voter fraud on any significant scale. Note please that “party in power” is relevant to the area in which fraud is conducted — a party in power in a municipality or county trumps an opposing party in power at the state level, usually.

    I understand the concerns of those resisting the voter ID. It boils down to a perception (nationally) that “Democrats defraud by adding illegitimate votes. Republicans defraud by denying legitimate votes.” Neither is completely true, of course, but it’s the perception. And that’s the core of the resistance to it.

    Me, I like what it’s trying to do. And the extra effort being made goes a ways to alleviating the concern it’s “denying votes”. But I still have my two concerns:

    – The fact it still doesn’t address the major sources of fraud — collusion by the local party in power (stuffing boxes or making ballots disappear) and purchase of votes, both at the ballot and more especially as absentee votes;
    – The fact that there appears no real restriction on voter ID (especially non-driver licenses) spreading to a host of other uses. That is, there appears to be a sanguine belief that this will stay solely with voting. Kind of like the Social Security Numbers were just going to be used by the Social Security Administration.

  3. Chris says:

    kspencer,

    I think that historically, the local party has had more ability to stuff ballot boxes and the like. However, with the new electronic voting systems it is much more likely that the party in control of the Gen Assembly and the Sec of State will gain that power via the selection of the various devices used.

  4. kspencer says:

    Chris,

    No, stuffing ballot boxes is still available “locally”. Simplistically, you punch in some more votes, keeping track of how many additional votes were entered. At/near the end of the day, you ‘check off’ the requisite number from the registrar’s log, crossing off the appropriate number of no-shows. It’s actually a bit harder (though not impossible) to electronically replicate a disappearing ballot box. Here, you have a hardware malfunction that causes the chips to not read. Oh, sure, it’s going to get found that the machine wasn’t registering votes, but finding out how many votes for A and how many were for B becomes impossible unless/until a paper trail (or other effective independent audit trail) is made. That last, by the way, is why I want the machines to print a paper ballot. It doesn’t stop disappearing votes, but it sure makes it harder to have happen.

    FWIW, of all the systems I’ve examined in the US, the one I like the best in terms of prevention of both types of fraud (denial of vote, extra vote) is the one in Oregon. I also think it’s the one least likely to be acceptable here in Georgia.

  5. Silence says:

    Gentlemen, let’s be completely honest. To you Republicans, don’t appear stupid and deny that box stuffing, vote buying, ballot enhancement, and activities of those type are done, in some areas, by Republicans as well as Democrats.

    To you Democrats, don’t play dumb and try to honestly get people to believe that this common sense reform doesn’t benefit everyone. In a recent survey conducted by a local board of elections, only 37 out of approximately 57,000 voters DIDN’T identify themselves with a driver’s license. I believe those numbers are correct, off the top of my head, without going back and looking at the actual data.

    This DOES prevent, however, situations from occuring such as the one which took place in Jackson, MS. 4. The Clarion Ledger (Jackson, MS) December 20, 2003: “A Corinth woman is free on $500 bond after being accused in an affidavit of misrepresenting her identity and voting in the wrong precinct during the August 26 Democratic runoff election. In an affidavit filed by attorney general’s office in Alcorn County Justice Court, Roberts is accused of illegally voting in the West Corinth precinct by identifying herself as Sarah Roberts. The affidavit states Shirley Roberts is a registered voter in the East Third Street Precinct. Sarah Roberts is a legally registered voter in the West Corinth Precinct. During the hearing before the executive committee, Sarah Roberts testified she wasn’t allowed to vote at West Corinth, because when she arrived at the precinct, someone had already signed her name in the voter log.”

    THAT, my friends, is REAL disenfranchisement.

    When a state has approximately 4, 414,000 registered voters, and 6,005,000 holders of state issued IDs, one doesn’t have to do much math to figure out that no disenfranchisement will take place. In fact, such a mandate might just PREVENT it. What a novel idea.

  6. Doc says:

    “Even Mexico” alludes to the fact that many illegal Mexican immigrants want drivers licenses and other official identification papers from the United States government. Ironically, their own country apparently has much tighter procedures than what they want the United States to follow.

Comments are closed.