The impact of a few votes extends well beyond local races. While everyone remembers Florida’s votes in the 2000 Presidential Election, it was actually New Mexico that was closer. Only 366 votes in New Mexico separated George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore.
The bottom line is that there is a long list of elections decided by just a handful of votes — in many cases less than 10. In each case, just a handful of votes made the difference between winning and losing, with each vote critically important.
As long as only voters cast ballots, this is how democracy works. The problem comes when that does not happen. In January, South Carolina’s attorney general estimated that between 600 and 900 ballots had been cast in recent elections by people listed as dead. In February 2012, the Pew Center on the States estimated that 1.8 million dead people are still registered to vote. Pew also found that 2.75 million voters are registered to vote in more than one state.
Of course, these voter fraud issues are separate and distinct from the challenges posed by illegal immigrants who have registered to vote, and in some cases cast ballots. Just one vote can decide the outcome. When the potential for hundreds or thousands of votes is possible, the risks are just too great.
Georgia is especially vulnerable to the risks of in-person voter fraud. Georgia uses electronic voting. Once a ballot is cast, there is no opportunity to isolate and cancel a ballot cast, even if it is later determined that the vote was fraudulent. As a result, the only real opportunity to address in-person voting fraud in Georgia occurs before the vote is cast. Basically, election officials have from the moment the voter arrives until the voter casts the ballot to detect and prevent in-person voter fraud.
The bi-partisan Commission on Federal Election Reform recommended, among other things, photo ID requirements as a solution to in-person voter fraud. By requiring a photo ID, election officials can determine immediately whether a voter is who they say they are. In a country where millions of dead people are still registered to vote, increased detection and prevention of in-person voter fraud is necessary and appropriate.
Without voter identification, voter fraud is just too easy, and much too risky. Just this month, James O’Keefe, a conservative activist, proved how easy it was in Washington, D.C. One of his team entered a poll and suggested that he was Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the United States. (Interestingly, Attorney General Holder opposes photo identification for voters.)
When the pretend Eric Holder voter indicated that he had forgotten his identification, the poll worker responded, “You don’t need it, it’s all right. ... As long as you’re in here, you’re on the list — and that’s who you say you are, you’re OK.” And that is how it happens.
Now multiply that risk by the stakes that will exist in the presidential election in 2012. With millions of errors in voter rolls and passions running high, both the motive and opportunity for voter fraud will be great — too great.
When Georgia enacted its voter identification law, different groups challenged the law as unconstitutional. Yet, after years of trying, these groups could not find one person who was actually denied the right to vote because they could not produce a valid government identification. Indeed, for anyone who does not have one, Georgia provides a free identification card. For anyone who does not have their identification available at the polling place, a provisional ballot is available. All a provisional voter need then do is promptly bring a photo identification after the election.
The courts have consistently found that voter identification requirements are constitutional, including specifically Georgia’s photo identification law.
Elections continue to be decided by a single vote or a handful of votes. Recently, in California, a city (Vernon) found widespread voter fraud with the Chamber of Commerce reporting that nearly 30 percent of the registered voters did not live in Vernon. In fact, in response to complaints, six votes were thrown out in a contested election — enough to change the outcome of the election.
Yet, the battle to protect the integrity of voting goes on. It is time that administration officials stand up for voter protection, not the opportunity for more voter fraud. There is actually one really easy way to protect Eric Holder’s vote — require voter identification. He should take the lead in doing that. The integrity of democracy — including the right to vote — depends on it.
Randy Evans of Atlanta is the former general counsel to the Georgia Republican Party.