Politics

Former Dem. congressman makes U-turn on voter ID laws, says ballot fraud common

Fraudulent voting by imaginary voters, not racist obstacles to the ballot box, is the most disturbing and common form of voter suppression facing people of all races, says former Alabama congressman Artur Davis, an African-American Democrat.

“I’ve changed my mind on voter ID laws — I think Alabama did the right thing in passing one — and I wish I had gotten it right when I was in political office,” Davis wrote in an October 17 op-ed published in the Montgomery Advertiser.

“The truth is that the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African American community, at least in Alabama, is the wholesale manufacture of ballots, at the polls and absentee, in parts of the Black Belt.”

Davis had particular scorn for “voting the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally-impaired to function,” which he wrote “cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights.”

Davis’s surprising turn on the issue comes as the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress ramp up pressure on voter-identification laws. Several states have passed laws this year requiring voters to to show identification before casting their ballots. Those states include Alabama and Wisconsin, South Carolina, Texas and Kansas.

GOP leaders say voter ID laws are needed to combat fraudulent voting, but liberal lawmakers typically oppose them.

North Carolina’s Democratic governor, for example, recently vetoed a voter-ID law. And in August, President Obama’s justice department declared its opposition to South Carolina’s new identification law.

Democratic activists say the new laws aren’t needed, and the the ID requirements will make it harder for poor people, Hispanics or African-Americans to vote. In Alabama, the new law “is about suppression, not protection,” Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell said in September.

“There’s really no evidence of reduced voter turnout,” said Republican Scott Gessler, Colorado’s Secretary of State, in an interview with The Daily Caller. “But that doesn’t really stop the left screaming about it because, in part, it is a wedge issue they use to get people to vote.”

Davis echoed those claims while serving in Congress. The Democrat was elected in 2003, and left to in 2010 to run for governor as a moderate. He lost his primary race, however, and quit politics.

“When I was a congressman, I took the path of least resistance,” he wrote in his Oct. 17 op-ed, and “without any evidence to back it up, I lapsed into the rhetoric of various partisans and activists who contend that requiring photo identification to vote is a suppression tactic aimed at thwarting black voter participation.”

But the greater threat, he explained in that essay, come from voter impersonation.

“If you doubt it exists, I don’t; I’ve heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it, I’ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results,” he said.

In one shift from the status quo, Democratic legislators in Rhode Island joined their GOP counterparts  in July to require identification at polling places.