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Safeguards must be installed to prevent voter fraud

February 04, 2011|By JAMES H. WARNER

In the last presidential election, there were numerous reports of electoral irregularities, in particular of dubious actions believed to have been engaged in by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

In one instance, the irregularity was filmed and put on youtube.com — the case of the "New Black Panthers," where there was no doubt as to the facts nor was there doubt as to the illegality of the voter intimidation that was displayed. The fact that the U.S. Justice Department chose to drop the case added steroids to the strength of the average voter's doubts about the reliability of elections.

Of course, voters had solid reasons for doubts for some time before the last two elections. In the state of Maryland, for example, the voter rolls do not seem to be routinely purged and it is illegal to ask a voter for proof of identity. Any attempt to add reliability to the system is resisted in Annapolis by the (lamentable and apparently permanent) Democratic majority. Resistance to reliable electoral reforms is widespread. However, rather than tackle this one state at a time, the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives offers a chance to reform federal elections nationwide. Article I, Section 4, cl. 1 of the Constitution reads as follows:

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The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of choosing Senators.

First, as to voter identification, we can choose a politically correct option, i.e., the election laws of Canada. After all, if we could copy their health care law, surely we can copy their election law. Here is what Canada requires in the way of voter identification, as published on the website of Elections Canada, an independent agency established by Parliament with responsibility for Canadian elections.

Option 1: Show one piece of identification with your photo, name and address. It must be issued by a government agency.

Option 2: Show two pieces of authorized identification. Both pieces must have your name and one must also have your address.

Option 3: Swear an oath and have an elector who knows you vouch for you. This person must have authorized identification and be from the same polling division as you. This person can only vouch for one person.

I would modify the Canadian requirements slightly to require that both the elector swearing the oath and the elector who vouches for that person do so under penalty of perjury.

The identification requirement must be met before the voter can receive a ballot. I would add the requirement that the voter, prior to being allowed to cast a ballot, dip a finger in a pot of indelible ink to prevent voting more than once.

Finally, I would address ballot security. Regardless of assurances, I do not find a high degree of confidence in purely electronic voting machines. Certainly, I am not confident that these machines can be rendered secure from undetectable tampering. In my electoral district, these machines were adopted following the confusion of the presidential election recount in Florida in 2000. But before the advent of these machines, we used paper ballots on which the voter used a pencil to complete an arrow next the candidate's name. This ballot was scanned optically, but the paper ballot was retained as a backup. This is a method that is unlikely to create confusion in the mind of the voter, yet is highly reliable. I would suggest Congress require this ballot for federal elections.

By passing a bill in the House that would impose these requirements Republicans would put Democrats in a very tight spot. It is my opinion that the average American believes that Democrats oppose the identification of voters because they want to engage in voter fraud. However, they can't admit this. Instead, when they are in chambers, whether in a state legislature or in Congress, they make the specious argument that requiring identification would be a burden on poor people. 

Of course, they just passed a law that puts a much bigger burden on poor people, requiring them to buy health insurance for which, of course, they would have to produce some sort of identification. But they know that any argument, however silly, that is made in chambers is unlikely to be heard by the majority of the voting public. However, if such a bill is actually passed, there would be a high level of attention on the debates in the Senate. Any argument likely to be put forward in opposition to this proposal would only serve to discredit Democrats. Yet how could they possible not oppose it?

Personally, I would find it delightful to watch Democrats argue against the electoral safeguards that their own hapless Jimmy Carter has spent decades peddling around the world.

James H. Warner of Rohrersville is an attorney who is retired from the legal office of the National Rifle Association. He served as a domestic policy adviser to President Reagan from 1985 to 1989.

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