Convincing evidence mounts about new voter identification laws unfairly suppressing the vote. A recent Associated Press analysis strongly suggests the number of legitimate votes rejected will far outpace the cases of deliberate fraud in the presidential election, even though ID advocates insist voting rules must be tightened.
The news service looked closely at the 2008 presidential elections in Indiana and Georgia, which first required government-issued photo IDs. More than 1,200 ballots were tossed. Another analysis, by the Brennan Center at New York University, documented just nine cases of voter impersonation, nationwide, from 2000 to 2007.
With a sharp increase in strict voter-ID laws in the past two years, mainly by Republican-dominated legislatures, the Brennan Center estimates that 3 million voters could be disenfranchised this year, with the heaviest impact on the elderly, poor and minorities. That’s a high price to pay for addressing an almost nonexistent problem.
Even research by the Republican National Lawyers Association is unconvincing. It found 400 election fraud prosecutions over a decade. That’s less than one per state per year, and another indication of a solution in search of a problem.
The head of the Republican lawyers’ group, Michael Thielen, maintains that much voter fraud goes unreported and unprosecuted. Yet investigations, including a crackdown in Summit County in 2004, reveal misunderstandings and confusion about complex voting laws instead of attempts to manipulate the system.
Ohio is among more than two dozen states with some form of voter ID requirement. Although few here realize it, the state does not require a government-issued photo ID. Other documentation, such as a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck can be used. The Ohio House, dominated by Republicans, did pass a photo ID bill, but the Senate, also controlled by Republicans, wisely bottled up the legislation. Jon Husted, the secretary of state and a Republican, helped to lobby against the measure.
At the Statehouse, the more important election task involves easing access to the ballot — not bending the election system to partisan ends.