Understandably, each time Americans go to the polls, the issue of voter fraud heats up. As we approach the midterm elections – and reports of fraud continue – there is a pressing need to ensure the integrity of our elections. Texas implemented a common-sense solution to combat voter fraud by passing a voter ID law. I am defending this law against an ongoing court challenge.
Americans are asked to produce official identification regularly, often for quite ordinary things: entering government buildings, buying a drink, purchasing a cell phone, and renting a car. These requirements go unquestioned because we all recognize the need to ensure that people meet the conditions for participation in certain activities.
The one exception seems to be the ballot box, where an ID suddenly becomes an onerous requirement. The alternative, though, ignores growing evidence compiled by my office and officials across the state, of significant voter fraud in Texas. Just in the last couple months the district attorney for Starr County made seven arrests on charges of voter fraud. Meanwhile, last week, my office arrested three people in Robstown, TX on nine counts of fraud. Last year, we secured a felony conviction of a noncitizen who had been voting illegally for over ten years.
In response to that case, we opened a brief investigation into a handful of counties and discovered that at least 165 non-citizens had cast 100 illegal votes in the span of two years. Keep in mind that these individuals were identified only because they reported themselves as non-citizens at jury duty. Moreover, fraud is notoriously difficult to detect, leaving few traces for investigators to find. It’s reasonable to suspect – given how easy it is to vote fraudulently – that these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. If we really pull back the curtain on this issue, who knows what we might find?
Texas’ voter ID law makes great strides in solving this problem. It provides for seven free or inexpensive options to get a valid photo ID. And it even makes an exception allowing those without an ID to vote by signing an affidavit stating a compelling obstacle to their obtaining that ID. The affidavit carries the penalty of perjury to curb abuse.
There are few activities Americans undertake in the public sphere more important than voting: in our republic, the right to vote secures government of, by, and for the people. As Federalist Paper 51 puts it, “[A] dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government.” In other words, the ballot box is the first line of defense for the liberty Americans enjoy each day. It is because the right to vote secures to us the blessings of liberty that we must do everything in our power to safeguard the will of the American people in the election process.
We have numerous laws forbidding discrimination at the ballot box for any reason – race, sex, country of origin, religion, etc. – but those laws have little purpose if illegal votes can cancel legitimate ones. We then place ourselves in danger of handing an election to a politician that is not truly of the people’s choosing, and when that happens, the people are left with almost no ability to defend their rights from their own government.
Sadly, many states have long failed to address this threat to our democratic process. They still operate polling places on the honor system, blindly trusting that nobody will take advantage. Something so open to manipulation is bound to be manipulated.
Instead, Texas protects both the right to vote and the right to not have that vote offset by a fraudulent one. If we are serious about protecting the right to vote, we cannot be so clumsy as to allow legitimate votes to be nullified by illegitimate ones.
James Madison famously wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” I think there is a reasonable corollary for our present situation: if people were angels, no ID laws would be necessary. Knowing the intense passions – not to mention organized corruption – ignited by politics, it is wishful thinking to bank on universal honesty.
Voting is too important for us to continue to bury our heads in the sand. On a small scale, voter fraud cancels out your vote. On a large scale, it can swing an election and undermine our very democracy. The only way to truly prevent it is to demand reasonable proof that voters are who they claim to be.
Ken Paxton is the attorney general of Texas.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.