Remember your name and where you live — because it’s all you need to prove you’re authorized to make decisions in the most powerful democracy on earth.
Democracy is among America’s defining characteristics. It’s part of who we are as a nation. Unfortunately, dangerously relaxed rules governing how we vote compromise the integrity of this democracy. Ballot security in 2020 should concern us enough to start verifying every voter at the polls.
Right now, most polling places have large binders full of names and addresses. So long as a voter is able to state a name and corresponding address in the polling place’s book, he or she will get a ballot. That system doesn’t seem so bad until you consider that, according to the Pew Research Center, the books in 2012 contained 24 million invalid or inaccurate voter registrations.
If we were to create a ghost state populated by those bad registrations, it would displace Florida as the third largest state in the union. Only California and Texas would surpass it.
Citizens from that “ghost state” are voting. “These numbers are large enough to plausibly account for … victories in a few close elections,” according to the authors of research conducted by the Cooperative Congressional Election Study.
How has that affected Americans? In 2008, Minnesota’s now-disgraced former Sen. Al Franken won by a margin of .01 percent — or 312 votes. A group called Minnesota Majority discovered that between 1,099 and 1,670 counted ballots were cast by felons ineligible to vote. Had Minnesota enjoyed a more robust system for identifying who received ballots, Franken may not have won.
If Franken had never been a senator, American politics would look noticeably different. The 2017 proposal to repeal ObamaCare, which failed by one vote, may have succeeded. The impact of 1,099-1,670 illegal votes is difficult to overstate.
Ohio is similar to Minnesota. “In 2014, 16 local races in Ohio were decided by one vote or through breaking a tie. In 2013, 35 local races in Ohio were that close,” according to former FEC Commissioner Hans Von Spakovsky. These local elections are important. Local government can set the tone for the direction Ohio takes in federal elections. The fact that one vote can decide an Ohio local election, combined with the insecurity of our current polling places, is frightening.
Given the grisly facts about America’s electoral security and the high stakes involved, it seems logical that we should institute a better system of identifying who shows up to cast a ballot. Eighty percent of Americans agree with the idea that we should require a person to present government issued photo ID to vote, but a small, vocal group of activists constrain this popular logic. They compare common-sense voter ID policy to Jim Crow laws, assuming that people of color are less able to acquire an ID.
Interestingly, minorities themselves disagree with that notion. According to Gallup data, 77 percent of people of color and 81 percent of whites favor a photographic voter ID requirement. In other words, even minority voters do not buy the narrative that voter ID laws are detrimental to their interests.
In 2005, Indiana required all voters to present photo ID. Those who did not have identification cast provisional ballots. They were then given 10 days to provide an ID or state that they could not afford one. Those who were unable to afford an ID had the opportunity to acquire one for free and still have their vote count. This allowed many voters to acquire a free ID that they could also use for other activities. The Indiana system prevented fraud, disenfranchised nobody, and maintained electoral security.
Democratic Indiana state Rep. William Crawford objected to the policy in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him 6-2, upholding Indiana’s ID rules.
Other states would be wise to implement Indiana’s policy. America’s democracy is the envy of the world, and it’s worth securing.
Kyle Hooten (@KyleHooten2) is a contributor to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.