Voter ID unlikely to pass in NJ despite ‘rampant’ voter fraud, RNC delegates say

Kevin Mooney | Contributor

TAMPA, Fla. — Voter fraud is “rampant” and “commonplace” in parts of New Jersey where greater vigilance is needed to safeguard the ballot, according to key figures in the state’s delegation attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Even so, they said it is unlikely that the state will pass a voter identification law similar to what is now operative in neighboring Pennsylvania and in other parts of the country.

New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith singled out Mercer County as an area where there is a strong potential for voter fraud to occur.

When he first ran for Congress in 1978, Smith lost to incumbent Democrat Frank Thompson, but prevailed in a 1980 re-match, the same year Ronald Reagan was elected president. Smith identified Mercer County as an area where there was, and probably still is, a strong potential for voter fraud.

“We need a clean democracy with clean elections and more vigilance to protect the ballots,” he said. “The people who commit fraud should be held accountable. We had 2,000 ineligible voters on the rolls in 1980, and I don’t think the situation has improved since that time.”

Smith recalls that Thompson’s campaign went to court to keep voting machines open in Trenton, where the campaign claimed people had trouble getting to the polls as a result of bad weather.

“They were just trolling for votes to see how much [was] needed to win,” Smith said. “I noticed they didn’t try to keep the machines open in Hamilton.”

Maria Bua, the former GOP chair in Mercer County, said that voter fraud is “far more rampant” and “commonplace” than people realize.

“It’s certainly a problem in Mercer County,” she said. “A voter ID law would be helpful, but I’m not sure it’s something we’ll ever see.”

Bua, who is also a delegate to the RNC, expressed concern that it was far too easy for college students to become registered as voters, while they maintain a residence in another part of the country. She also said there was a problem with individuals using business addresses to become registered.

Republican state Sen. Gerald Cardinale is also keen on the concept of having some form of voter identification, but doubts that it could become law anytime soon.

“Voter fraud is real and rampant in certain parts of New Jersey such as Southern Hudson County,” Cardinale told The Daily Caller. “A voter identification law would make sense, but the Democrats here would never let it happen. That’s unfortunate because people in both parties are the victims of voter fraud and we should hold high standards to ensure ballot integrity.”

Although he is not familiar with the specific allegations, Cardinale said the voter fraud scandal embroiling Rhode Island over the past few days shows that both parties have good reason to be concerned.

“You have one Democrat making allegations about another Democrat,” he noted. “This should not be a partisan issue, we should work together to root out fraud.”

Rhode Island is the only state with a Democratic legislature to pass a new photo voter ID requirement in response to voter fraud allegations since 2011. The move puts the Ocean State in company with Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The constitutionality of photo ID requirements was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2008 case. Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota and Indiana have had photo ID statutes in effect for several years.

Most recently, a state judge upheld Pennsylvania’s photo ID law. The state supreme court has agreed to hear an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union. The U.S. Department of Justice has moved to block implementation of new photo ID laws in South Carolina and Texas under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Section 5, which was set up to guard against racial discrimination, requires Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota to obtain approval from the DOJ for election changes. Texas and South Carolina are both countersuing the DOJ, but Texas is also challenging the constitutionality of  VRA’s Section 5.

Rhode Island state Sen. Harold Metts, the lead sponsor of the voter ID law that is now operative in his state, sees room for common ground.

“The key word is balance,” Metts, a Democrat in Providence, said. “Voter fraud is real; it has a history here in Rhode Island; and it is a problem in other states. What we did here was very reasonable and very necessary, and I think we can be a model for other states. I certainly think it’s possible to have too many requirements and to create too many hurdles and burdens. That might be true in the more conservative states; it’s not true here.”

Rhode Island’s new law was tested for the first time during April’s presidential primary, when voters were asked to show drivers’ licenses, passports, birth certificates or health club IDs. Voters who did not have the necessary identification were permitted to cast provisional ballots. Beginning in 2014, only a photo ID will be accepted, but the state will provide free IDs to anyone who needs one, and provisional ballots will remain in effect for anyone who lacks an ID on Election Day.

Left-leaning advocacy groups including the ACLU, the Advancement Project, Project Vote and the Brennan Center for Justice claim voter ID laws tend to disenfranchise minorities. But Metts, who is African-American, views the ID laws as a necessary protection against fraud.

“There’s always a concern about disenfranchisement and we should make every effort to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote can vote,” Metts said. “But it got to the point where there was a such fear over disenfranchisement that people just buried their heads when it came time to deal with voter fraud, and that was not healthy for our democracy.”

Metts initially took action because several of his own constituents were the victims of voter fraud, he explained. “While it is possible to put too many restrictions and requirements in place, this has not happened in Rhode Island,” he said, “and it does not need to be an issue [in] other states so long as the laws [are] crafted in a way that’s fair.”

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