Voter ID is currently a hot topic again, inspiring empty political attacks from the President and the Vice-President. We have posted two earlier articles, here and here. Given continuing controversy and new attacks, we have decided to post a third article with a different tilt and some new information. Recently, in an article for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Jason Kander (D), the Missouri Secretary of State, attacks proposals regarding voter ID in the Missouri Legislature. The proposals involve a constitutional amendment, which if approved by the electorate, would require an approved photo ID in order to vote. Kander’s rhetorical skills are good, but his substance is weak. He misstates the goal of the proposals, says that the remedy does not fit the non-existent ailment, cites suspect statistics, and finally questions the motives of the proponents of electoral reform.
His arguments boil down to these:
- The recent proposals in the Missouri Legislature are designed to prevent voter impersonation fraud.
- There hasn’t been “a reported case” of this in Missouri.
- If the proposed legislation were about voter impersonation fraud, it would permit voters to prove their identity with expired driver licenses, expired military ID cards, and the like.
- Therefore it must be about disenfranchising the “220,000 eligible voters who would need to find a way to get an ID they don’t currently have…”
- [I]t should not be harder for them to enjoy the same constitutional rights as the rest of us.”
Argument 1. House Bill 1073 was sponsored by Representative Tony Dugger. He writes here that his concern is “voter fraud” and continues: “The goal of this legislation is solely to protect the integrity of the election process, not to restrict anyone from voting.” Voter impersonation fraud, just one of many kinds of electoral fraud, is not mentioned. The supporters of voter ID commonly state that the requirement for a photo ID is merely the first step in shoring up the integrity of elections. Absentee voting is where the real action is. Currently in Columbia paid canvassers are seeking signatures in favor of early voting. Kander is incorrect to imply the goal is solely to prevent voter impersonation fraud.
Argument 2. Democrats have been making this point for quite a while. It is unclear to us what exactly they would consider voter impersonation fraud. Clearly there was a recent case of it in Washington, D.C. when someone claiming to be Eric Holder without ID was handed a ballot. Dead people have voted in many elections and dogs have been registered in St. Louis. The votes were cast in the names of people ineligible to vote. Does that qualify as voter impersonation fraud? Election fraud was committed by ACORN in Kansas City. If it is true that there is no single case of this narrowly defined sort of fraud in Missouri, there are plenty of cases of it elsewhere. Just as auditors try to prevent fraud in business and government, should not Missouri try to prevent fraud in elections? Restricting the debate only to voter impersonation and only to Missouri is merely a debater’s trick. But we note here and here stories about voter fraud changing the outcome of a 2010 Missouri election. The fraud was not about voter impersonation, since the voter, who pleaded guilty in Federal court, did not assume another person’s name, but falsely claimed to reside in the district in question.
Argument 3. Pace Kander, proving one’s identity at the polls is not the only goal of the legislation. The text of House Bill 1073 states that the goal goes beyond proving one’s identity and includes eligibility to vote:
House Bill 1073: Specifies that a person seeking to vote in a public election must establish his or her identity and eligibility to vote as a United States citizen lawfully residing in this state by presenting to election officials one of the specified forms of personal identification that contains his or her photograph.
Establishing eligibility involves proving one’s current residence and citizenship. Expired IDs won’t do this. Current IDs won’t always do this, but are better than nothing. Establishing citizenship is trickier and, given the problem of non-citizen voting in other states but coming to Missouri, may require follow-up legislation.
Argument 4. Secretary Kander does not give the source of his figure of 220,000 registered voters without current driver licenses. The usual way to arrive at the number is to compare the totals of statewide voter registrations and licensed drivers, take the difference, and then make adjustments as required. We bet that Secretary Kander used raw figures and did not make adjustments. According to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Missouri in 2010 had 4,458,183 citizens of voting age. Reported voter registration was 4,137,495, while the Federal Highway Administration reported for 2009 4,128,634 drivers (4,217,910 total less 89,276 ages 16 and 17.) So it would appear that there were slightly more voters than drivers. But wait. Our voter rolls are notoriously full of inactive, dead, and otherwise ineligible registrations. Lawsuits have been filed to require the purging of voter rolls pursuant to federal law. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission reports 463,035 inactive registrations for 2010, making active registrations total 3,674,460. This is far less than the number of drivers 18 or older. The claim that there are more voters than holders of driver licenses uses the same statistics as precincts recording more votes than their population.
Argument 5. Kander concludes with this gem: it should not be harder for those without current Missouri driver licenses to vote than for those of us who do. This point escapes us, as it implies that any requirement that cannot be applied with 100% uniformity is unfair. By this logic eighteen-year olds or those moving to Missouri from out of state should not be required to register to vote or get a Missouri driver license, since it makes it harder for them to vote than for those already registered.
To conclude, we will content ourselves with mentioning that the bill passed by the Missouri House provides that those without photo ID may cast provisional ballots for reasons of disability, religious belief, and age. Inconvenience is not a valid reason. We could echo the logic of liberals and say that almost alone among civilized countries, the United States has very weak safeguards against electoral fraud. Even Mexico requires a photo ID and a thumbprint to vote. This is credited with breaking the stranglehold the PRI party held on Mexican state and national elections for most of the twentieth century. Clearly Mexico is ruled by evil Republicans. Something must be done.