The history of voting in the United States
Contrary to the claims of many liberals, the problem of voter fraud is as old as the country itself. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted when it upheld Indiana’s voter identification law, “flagrant examples” of voter fraud “have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists.”
Attempts to commandeer election results have been documented dating back to the 19th century when New York City’s infamous Tammany Hall was synonymous with political corruption and election fraud. In 1844, 55,000 votes were recorded in one New York election, even though there were only 41,000 eligible voters. Decades later, these efforts have continued, and determined fraudsters have become only more creative in their efforts to fix the elections’ outcome.
What happens when a state enacts election laws that appear to place a burden on a particular class of voters?
And what if the enacted law is designed to prevent voter fraud? After all, there are many types of scenarios that might perpetrate fraud. Here are some examples:
- Impersonation fraud at the polls: Voting in the name of other legitimate voters and voters who have died, moved away or lost their right to vote because they are felons but remain registered.
- False registrations: Voting under fraudulent voter registrations that either use a phony name and a real or fake address or claim residence in a particular jurisdiction where the registered voter does not actually live and is not entitled vote.
- Duplicate voting: Registering in multiple locations and voting in the same election in more than one jurisdiction or state.
- Fraudulent use of absentee ballots: Requesting absentee ballots and voting without knowing the actual voter, or obtaining the absentee ballot from a voter and either filling it indirectly and forging the voter’s signature or illegally telling the voter who to vote for.
- Buying votes: Paying voters to cast either an in-person or absentee ballot for a particular candidate.
- Illegal “assistance” at the polls: Forcing or intimidating voters—particularly the elderly, disabled, illiterate, and those for whom English is a second language—to vote for particular candidates while supposedly providing them with “assistance.”
- Ineligible voting: Illegal registration and voting by individuals who are not U.S. citizens, are convicted felons, or are otherwise not eligible to vote.
- Altering the vote count: Changing the actual vote count either in a precinct or at the central location where votes are counted.
- Ballot petition fraud: Forging registered voters’ signatures on the ballot petitions that must be filed with election officials in some states for a candidate or issue to be listed on the official ballot. Partial Source: Federalist
But again, what if some specific election law is alleged to burdensome voters?
A model arose in an Indiana case where the legislature passed a law that compelled voters to have a state-issued photo identification before they could vote. Opponents presumed that the law was constitutional because it placed a burden on some of the possible voters. The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court.
Significantly JUSTICE SCALIA, joined by JUSTICE THOMAS and JUSTICE ALITO, was of the view “that petitioners’ premise that the voter-identification law might have imposed a special burden on some voters is irrelevant.
Indiana’s law affects different voters are no more than different impacts of the single burden that the law uniformly imposes on all voters: To vote in person, everyone must have and present a photo identification that can be obtained for free. This is a generally applicable, nondiscriminatory voting regulation. The law’s universally applicable requirements are eminently reasonable because the burden of acquiring, possessing, and showing a free photo identification is not a significant increase over the usual voting burdens, and the State’s stated interests are sufficient to sustain that minimal burden.”
The court noted that “the first is the interest in deterring and detecting voter fraud. Indiana has a valid interest in participating in a nationwide effort to improve and modernize election procedures criticized as antiquated and inefficient.”
There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of a State’s interest in counting only eligible voters’ votes. Finally, Indiana’s interest in protecting public confidence in elections, while closely related to its interest in preventing voter fraud, has independent significance because such confidence encourages citizen participation in the democratic process.
The complaints, in this case, alleged that the new law substantially burdens the right to vote in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; that it is neither a necessary nor appropriate method of avoiding election fraud; and that it will arbitrarily disfranchise qualified voters who do not possess the required identification and will place an unjustified burden on those who cannot readily obtain such identification.
The court, in a separate case. Had concluded “that a State “violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard.” They used the term “invidiously discriminate” to describe conduct prohibited under that standard, A State may obviously impose “reasonable residence restrictions on the availability of the ballot,” it “may not deny the opportunity to vote to a bona fide resident merely because he is a member of the armed services.” Although the State’s justification for the tax was rational, it was invidious because it was irrelevant to the voter’s qualifications.
Rather than applying any “litmus test” that would neatly separate valid from invalid restrictions, we concluded that a court must identify and evaluate the interests put forward by the State as justifications for the burden imposed by its rule, and then make the “hard judgment” that our adversary system demands.
“A good registration list will ensure that citizens are only registered in one place, but election officials still need to make sure that the person arriving at a polling site is the same one that is named on the registration list. In the old days and in small towns where everyone knows each other, voters did not need to identify themselves. But in the United States, where 40 million people move each year, and in urban areas where some people do not even know the people living in their own apartment building, let alone their precinct, some form of identification is needed.
The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or confirm voters’ identity. Photo identification cards currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important.”
The Trump team is engaging state voting laws or policies that enhance the chance of fraud. From our perspective, the issue is not whether enough fraudulent votes have been discovered to turn an election count. The point is whether fraud transpired; if so, we think all (Republican and Democrat) ballots in the district, precinct, or area where the fraud was proven so be discounted. We say so because, as the court resolved, when any fraud occurs, public confidence in the system falters. It is like lice; once you find one, you know there are more–but they are hard to find.