Paul Weyrich
February 22, 2005
Protecting America's vote
By Paul Weyrich

Despite the fact that we were told that things went well in the 2004 elections, there was an unprecedented amount of voter fraud in various parts of the country. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ.), the Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and thus a Member of the Senate leadership, has issued a paper entitled "Putting an End to Voter Fraud" and its suggestions are surely worth considering. The Help America Vote Act, which was supposed to take care of a number of problems in the American election system when it was enacted in 2002, may have made matters worse. In any case, the Act comes up for renewal shortly and there are changes which ought to be made.

First, Congress should require that voters show a photo ID at the polls. I have to show a Photo ID at various stores. I even had to show a photo ID at a doctor's office. Senator Kyl says "without genuine, photographic identification, the avenues for manipulation and fraud by unscrupulous individuals will remain open to exploitation."

Second, Congress should examine the integrity of the voter registration process and the ongoing failure of states to maintain accurate voter lists. Senator Kyl points out that current federal laws governing registration list maintenance prevent local officials from taking a zero tolerance approach to voter fraud. In addition Kyl says that "Congress should make certain that non citizens are not illegally registering and voting: only Americans should decide the results of American elections."

Third, Congress should examine the extent to which early and absentee voting increases the likelihood of fraudulent votes being cast. The Arizona Senator said that alternative voting system should have at least as many fraud protection safeguards as are available on election day. He calls on Congress to examine how states conduct early and absentee voting (to) determine whether legislation is necessary to protect voters against vote dilution through others' fraud.

Kyl, the Policy Committee Chairman, says that no election related legislation should proceed in this Congress unless these issues receive a through examination. I could not agree more.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) was a bi-partisan effort drawn from the experiences in 2000, especially in Florida. HAVA requires that new voters who register by mail have to provide non photographic evidence of identity either when they register or when they first vote. HAVA requires that voters by mail affirm their American citizenship. HAVA requires that all new voters provide their driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number. It is HAVA that requires states to have the so called "provisional ballot" which caused so many problems in Ohio and elsewhere in 2004. But with all of these requirements, there is still no photo ID required for new voters let alone for all voters on the rolls.

Senator Kyl points out that some Senators have fought photo identification on the grounds that such ID presents an undo burden on minorities, the poor and the disabled. But, he said, they have never proven their claim. There is no doubt that some Senators will fight any effort to have the identification requirement, even the relatively weak provisions of HAVA. They have agued in the past and will no doubt argue again that photo identification is a modern day poll tax. If it is true that minorities and the poor and disabled have no other photo ID and Congress does pass the ID requirement then it should signal local communities to provide for government issued photo identification.

Congress and the states were all hung up prior to the 2004 elections about voting machines. Jill Farrell of the Free Congress Foundation graded every state as to its worthiness in being prepared for the elections. Yet WHO voted seemed far less a consideration.

There is actually an attempt, S.17, on the part of some liberals to rid the system of any identification whatsoever, let alone adding on a photo ID. Congress surely is not going to reverse what little progress under HAVA has occurred. Rather Congress needs to add to that progress. It is never fashionable around this town to question motives, but exactly why, if you were concerned with the integrity of the voting system, would you advocate repeal of the current modest requirements? Could it be that some Senators find the encouragement of voter fraud to be to their advantage or at least the advantage of their party? I spoke with one of the lawyers who was assigned to the Indian reservation in South Dakota which miraculously produced the winning margin of victory for Sen. Tim Johnson in 2002. There were enough GOP lawyers watching the process in 2004 that probably the vote in 2004 was honest. Surprise, Thune won this time. Still, it isn't possible to have lawyers in every questionable precinct.

Photo IDs aren't perfect. We require them for all sorts of transactions and yet there is fraud. But at least they would cut down on fraud as much as is humanly possible.

While they are at it, Congress, in considering changes to HAVA should examine the so called "motor voter" system. This same say registration prevents the regulating authority from checking for proper addresses, for example. Far too little follow up is done in the post election period to determine just how honest the "motor voter" system really is. In fact, we don't have a good handle on the integrity of our voter registration lists.

Congress has enough time now, if it starts the process immediately, to do proper oversight and to get it right. Senator Kyl is to be commended for taking this initiative. It behooves his colleagues to take seriously what he has done.

© Paul Weyrich


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Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation... (more)

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