Who Stole the Election?

When Charles Webster was a member of the Maine House during the 1980s and 1990s, he and his Republican colleagues routinely proposed bills that would create restrictive voting laws -- or, as Webster sees it, legislation to tamp down on the rampant threat of voter fraud. "Every year we tried to solve this problem," he says, "and it was always a partisan vote," with Democrats supporting laws intended to increase turnout. As a result, Webster says, "We have one of the most loosey-goosey, lax election laws in the country."

Others would call Maine's voting laws a striking success. Most states struggle to get citizens to the polls; national turnout for a presidential election hasn't topped 60 percent since 1968, and turnout for midterm elections hovers in the 30s. That puts the United States far below the participation level in other Western democracies. Yet for the past four decades, Maine has stood apart. With an array of regulations that encourage voting -- the state has allowed voters to register on Election Day since 1973 -- Maine consistently places among the top five states for turnout. Seventy-two percent of the eligible population voted in 2008 when Barack Obama carried the state.

Republicans like Webster, who now chairs the state GOP, argue that too many people are voting in the state -- at least, too many illegal immigrants, out-of-state college students, and people who live in hotels. "What I don't want is somebody coming in stealing elections who doesn't live in the town," Webster says.

The political winds shifted Webster's way after the 2010 elections -- not just in Maine but across the country. Maine was one of 11 states where Republican majorities won control over both legislatures. This was the first time in four decades that Democrats had been out of power in the state, and the new Republican majority acted fast. After trying and failing to pass a voter -- identification law, they succeeded in repealing same-day voter registration. Republican Governor Paul LePage signed the bill in June.

The push against voting rights in Maine is just one example of the most direct assault on ballot access since the Jim Crow era. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the influential corporate-funded group that writes model bills for Republican state legislators, has pushed Republicans across the country to impose new restrictions on voting and to overturn progressive laws like Maine's. "I don't want everybody to vote," ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich said three decades ago. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, states have passed a steady stream of reforms to make it easier for people to vote. Now Republicans are pushing to make voting more difficult. "This is a hard-fought privilege," one Florida state senator said earlier this year. "This is something people die for. You want to make it convenient?"

The most headline-grabbing effort has been the creation of laws requiring voters to have photo identification at the polls. Five states -- Texas, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Kansas -- have enacted strict photo-ID laws since the beginning of the year. Democrats argue that these laws have clear political motivations. Studies indicate that the groups most likely to vote Democratic -- the young, elderly, poor, mobile, and minorities -- are the ones whose members tend to lack a photo ID. The rules are often configured specifically to favor the Republican base at the expense of excluding likely Democrats. In Texas, for example, showing a military ID or a concealed-gun license will get you a ballot, but a college ID won't. As many as one in four African Americans lack the identification these states now require, leading Georgia Congressman John Lewis to call the laws "poll taxes by another name." (Under the Voting Rights Act, voter-ID laws in Texas and South Carolina must be approved by the Department of Justice because of those states' history of minority-voter suppression. At press time, the department had not yet ruled.)

But as stifling as voter-ID laws might be, a plethora of manipulations to voter-access laws pose an even larger threat. Numerous states recently have cut back on early voting, which had made it much easier for the working poor -- people who often can't get off work on Election Day -- to cast a ballot. In 2008, around 40 million Americans took advantage of early voting. That number will almost surely be lower in 2012, thanks to Republican efforts in states like Ohio. Thirty percent of Ohio's ballots in the last presidential election were cast by early or absentee voters. In March, though, the Republican -- controlled legislature reduced the state's 35-day window of early voting to 24 days of mail-in voting and just 11 days of in-person early voting. Florida also shortened its early-voting window and made things even trickier for voting-rights advocates by rewriting state laws to impose steep fines on voter-registration organizations if registration forms contain even minor mistakes. The League of Women Voters, the group at the forefront of registering voters across the country, shuttered its Florida voter-registration operation as a result.

Florida is also one of a handful of states that have rolled back voting rights for former felons. In Iowa, Governor Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, had signed an executive order in 2005 granting voting rights to felons as soon as they left prison. On his first day in office this year, Republican Governor Terry Branstad rescinded that order, removing 100,000 voters from the rolls with a stroke of his pen.

Republicans have pushed these new restrictions under the pretense of reducing voter fraud. "Protecting the integrity of our elections is central to ensuring our government has the full faith and confidence of the citizens it represents," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said after he signed a photo-ID law. "Requiring photo identification to vote will go a long way to eliminate the threat of voter fraud. If you need an ID to buy cold medicine, it's reasonable to require it to vote." But there is scant evidence of voter fraud in any state. The Brennan Center for Justice concluded in a 2007 study that fraud was so "exceedingly rare" that a voter is more likely to be struck by lightning than to cast a fraudulent ballot. "It's a red herring," says Eric Marshall of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. "It's a reason for them to pass restrictive legislation and limit access to the ballot box."

That's certainly been the case in Maine. When House Speaker Robert Nutting first put the repeal of same-day registration on the table this year, he argued that the measure was intended to ease the burden on county clerks overwhelmed by the number of first-time voters showing up on Election Day. When county clerks testified against that section of the bill, saying same-day registrants did not overwhelm them, the Republicans were left to rail against the threat of fraudulent voting. The only problem: No such threat exists in Maine. Only two successful prosecutions of voter fraud have occurred in the 38 years since same-day registration became the law.

Webster, the state party chair, makes no bones about the political reasons for new voting restrictions. He calls the groups that support same-day registration the "welfare coalition": "It's the give-me groups. It's the groups that want government spending." Webster has been equally explicit in his effort to prevent college students from voting in Maine -- though the U.S. Supreme Court's 1979 ruling in Symm v. U.S. clearly established that college students could register in their school's district. Webster combed through voting rolls earlier this year and published a list of 206 out-of-state students he believed may have committed voter fraud; the secretary of state, a Republican, opened an investigation. Yet after two months of digging into the allegations, the secretary's office found that none of the college students voted improperly.

At first blush, same-day registration might seem like a small-bore issue that wouldn't affect all that many potential voters. But 60,000 Mainers -- of 750,000 total voters -- took advantage of the regulation during the 2008 election, and 20,000 did so during the 2010 midterms. "Same-day registration is one of the most important measures that states can introduce to improve voter turnout," says Ann Luther of the Maine chapter of the League of Women Voters. Indeed, the nine states with same-day registration have, on average, 7 percent higher turnout than the states without those rules. That's particularly useful for younger voters. "When we dig into why, the answer is fairly straightforward," says Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote. "They're new to the process, and they're highly mobile."

Just as African Americans are disproportionately affected by voter-ID laws, overturning same-day registration laws has a dampening effect on a particular class of people. For people who own their own home, the ability to register on Election Day is a minor concern; once you've registered, you should be set for decades. It's the mobile groups of society -- the young, the elderly, and the poor -- who need as many opportunities as possible to get themselves onto voting rolls. Renters are more likely to move in the time between elections. For the working poor, adding an extra step that requires advanced planning will only further reduce turnout -- especially among those most likely to vote Democratic. "The people who tend to be harmed by further restrictions on getting to the polls are the people who are on the margins anyway," says Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School. "Most voters see these new re-strictions as minor hassles that they can easily overcome. But that leaves a substantial minority -- upwards of millions of people -- for whom what seems like minor hassles turns out to be a pretty big deal."

Mainers are fighting back against the repeal of same-day registration. Protect Maine Votes, an organization made up of 18 voting-rights groups, gathered more than 70,000 signatures in less than four weeks to get a referendum on this November's ballot to overturn the new law. While Protect Maine Votes is urging voters to continue the state's history of open elections, Republicans are relying on the fear of stolen elections. "In the end, the issue will be: Do people believe our system is free of fraud, or do they believe it's got fraud?" Webster says. "If they believe it's free of fraud, then they'll keep the law."

While the referendum's organizers say they're confident that Maine voters will support same-day registration, they worry about what happens to voter participation in future elections if the referendum fails. "I don't know how far it will drop the first year," says David Farmer, communications director for Protect Maine Votes, "but I absolutely believe that the [type of] people who registered in the last two elections will go and try to vote and not be allowed."

The pushback against restrictive voting laws is picking up some steam outside of Maine. In early September, Democrats on a Senate Judiciary subcommittee held a "Barriers to the Ballot" hearing. National groups like Rock the Vote have also begun to raise awareness about the impact of these new regulations. "It appears some of these politicians are more interested in deciding who the electorate is than in letting the electorate decide who represents them," Smith says. "And that, to me, is something worth standing up against."

Comments

"Voter fraud doesn't exist because there have been virtually no successful prosecutions of voter fraud." (paraphrasing the author)

That, sir, is a ridiculous argument. Did you ever stop to think that prosecutions aren't possible simply BECAUSE no ID requirements existed? You can't prove voter fraud if you can't successfully identify the person that voted!!

The rest of your arguments are equally inane. ID is not "burdensome" - you need it to buy alcohol, you need it to buy prescription and many OTC drugs, you need it at the social security administration - the list is endless. And the states enacting voter ID will NOT charge for the ID if the person can't afford it, so this "Jim Crow poll tax" argument is just as invalid.

As for student IDs - I fail to see why they should have any validity at all as a method of identification with respect to RESIDENCY for VOTING!! A student living in a dorm, or even living off-campus, who has not established a year-round domicile with an intent to stay in a given state is NOT A RESIDENT OF SAID STATE! They should not be allowed to vote. And since states do not share voter rolls, what would restrict said student from voting not only in the state where they attend college, but in their home state as well?  

Identification, in 2011, is not an onerous requirement. Voter fraud DOES exist (the "cemetary vote" in Chicago is not just a joke). Get over it.

Photo IDs ought to be mandatory to vote. In IL you are required to have one to vote early at city hall but on election day no photo ID is needed at the regular polling place. This is Chicago where historically people are famous for voting many times.
Sanctuary cities and the motor voters act allow anyone to register to vote without any proof of residency. I have personally witnessed people who spoke NO english register to vote when I paid my state registration fee for my cars license plates.

Exactly why liberals have pushed to eliminate any form of checking to see if the voter is legitimate.

Just because Democrat prosecuters and State's Attorneys are not prosecuting voter fraud, does not mean that it does not exost ans isn't rampant.  Look at Eric Holder's refusal to prosecute Black Panthers that were waving guns in the faces of voters they didn't think would vote for Obama.

If there were numerous documented instances of voter fraud as voter ID advocates claim, then these examples would be trotted out every time this debate comes up.

Yeah but there is NO good reason why a gun owner id should count as photo id but a college id shouldn't.

Same day registration is joke and is a open invitation for voter fraud with a smile and a wink.
College campus voting is the biggest fraud in the country. Social networks will and is changing everything and will cause millions of extra/multiple Dem votes and will turn a close election over to the libs because of multiple votes.
Already people who spend summers up north , and winters down south are proof of multiple voting.
Any town who has more people vote than are registered to vote ought to trigger a federal audit of the voting roles. Don't laugh because this does happen.
NOT state but a FEDERAL response because the state is not to be trusted.

It is disingenuous to claim the low rate of convictions for vote fraud is somehow proof the vote fraud is not rampant.  Vote fraud is a crime that is easy to prevent but, given that we cast our ballots anonymously, practically impossible to prove after the damage has been done.  Even if there is a conviction, the fraudulently cast vote is not deducted from a candidate's total.

Every fraudulent vote cast means somewhere a citizen who cast his vote legally has been disenfranchised.

"advanced planning will only further reduce turnout"

Excuse me, but if you can't plan in advance TO vote, I guess it follows that you also can't plan in advance how to vote. You know, things like understanding the issues, and the candidates' stand on them. In this case, no you shouldn't vote. That will only get us uninformed decisions and unqualified officials.

Totally agree with all the moves by the states to provide free ids, there is no excuse for the most important thing you do in life.  Democrats have a long history of producing votes from the dead and non existent, this can not be allowed

ALL libby BS.

No ID ... no vote.

Are Dems even too damn lazy to get ID's?

The bottom line is that the Democrat Party cannot win elections based upon its stale, failed ideology and warped view of reality.  Therefore, it must rely on voter fraud.  Therefore it must oppose even reasonable safeguards against voter fraud.  Simple.

As to photo ID requirements, I've been ill lately and have had to show a photo ID every time I visit the doctor.  This is ostensibly to protect against identity theft.  The point is, if you need it for the doctor, travel etc, its not unreasonable to require it for voting.

Mr. Caldwell, I strongly disagree with you.

To vote in my state, I need only give my name and address.  No ID required.  What's to stop someone else coming in and stealing my vote?

I am required by law to carry a photo ID, as are my fellow state residents.  However, any to require ID be shown to vote is met with stiff resistance.  Why?  If I'm required to carry photo ID, why shouldn't I be prepared to show it to vote?

Your comparison to Jim Crow laws is ludicrous and insults the memory of African-American who fought for franchise.  In fact, there many people in American history have sacrificed much for the right to vote.  The least we can do is not cheapen this right by inviting voter fraud.

I'm shocked, shocked to find politics going on here!

Whatever!  There is no difference between the Repukes and the Demons . . . the Dem's have their Secretary of State project and have shown just as much willingness to change the rules to benefit themselves.  Consider their changing the laws in Massachusetts where they first stripped the governor of the right to appoint senators to vacant US senate seats in 2004 (because the republican Romney might appoint a republican) and then changing it back in 2008 when Kennedy died (since by then they had a democrat governor).

Don't get me wrong.  I hate the Repukes but I hate our stupid "Public Relations Theory as Politics" even more . . .

What is burdensome about requiring a photo ID?  We can't drive a car without one.  We can't travel outside of the country without a passport with photo ID.  Most places won't allow you to use a credit card without photo ID.  So what is the big deal?  Regarding Florida preventing felons from voting, I for one think that losing your voting rights is a natural punishment (and fully justified) for violating the rights of others.

Nonsense. 

Why should vote stealing be allowed to control elections?

Yeah Joseph Stalin was an expert on democracy...NOT!

Yah it's really horrible to ask someone to prove who they are to vote -- what a burden!? Must be racist, I tell ya!

did anyone figure out how many voters voted in maine that were not from there? Maybe thats why their turnout was better than other states.  what better that to vote is 2 or 3 states

did anyone check to see how many voters voted illegally maybe thats why their percentage was better.  I would like to vote in 2 or 3 states too

Those awful Republicans  are seeking to depress post-mortem voter participation, too.  Is there no end to their discrimination?  Life-challenged people should not be stripped of their rights!

As they say in Chicago, "Vote Early, vote often."

Libs like early voting and mail-in because they go to places like nursing homes and send in forged ballots, can vote the dead and illegals.  It is no coincidence that states with lax laws are all "blue".  Likewise, they hate IDs, even when free, because it hides the fake votes.  Dems have specialized in voter fraud since the days of "Boss" Tweed.  How about all those city precincts where over 100% voted, eh? ...and the elections in WA, MN, and similar places where recounts in close elections always seem to be won by Dems thanks to "newly discovered" votes.  Remember, it was corrupt Chicago votes which elected JFK.  All honest voters.  Sure.  And I need to be good or Santa Claus will give me coal in my stocking.  Dem/Lib/Progressives = voter fraud.

I have to present a photo id every time I purchase a beer at a sporting event.  I find the validity of my vote to be infinitely more important.

" In Texas, for example, showing a military ID or a concealed-gun license will get you a ballot, but a college ID won’t. "


    This sounds reasonable to me. Military ID's and concealed gun licenses are not commonly forged but forged college ID's are a dime a dozen.

I agree 100% on photo ID, but i do think that voters who are forced economically to move around may need more registration leeway.... maybe not same day registration but definately same month registration.

Pfft.  I live in Oregon.  There are NO polling places.  It's all done through the mail. You seriously think there isn't voter fraud going on in a state where you don't have to show a single piece of ID to cast a vote?  I have neighbors that come to me and ask if I am going to send in my ballot and if not can they use it.

Let me hear again who does NOT have a photo ID.......and prove it!  Oh, yeah, I forget.  It's all those dead people in Chicago who have been on the Democratic rolls for AGES; even death won't remove them.

With the objections to various voter photo ID laws, they state that 28% of minorities do not have a state issued photo ID, so how are they verifying each entitlement recipient is collecting under only one name.

yes transiant population is inconvienced by haveing to reregister each time they move but what is stoping them from voting with there old address and new address on the same day.

we have the tecknolgy to deal with this but wont let it happen.

with modern secure internet why cant i go to a main polling place and cast a maryland ballot  where my home is, and show on the maryland rolls that i voted.

the problem is no one checks that your not voting in more than one place.

Democratic "voter rights" bills are to elections what their "reproductive rights" bills are to unborn babies.  They think by mislabeling legislation they can dupe  voters into supporting their legislation.

The next thing you know they will propose a "jobs bill" that will actually simply expand govt, increase the deficit, and add to the ranks of over-paid and under-worked union employees. On second thought, even they wouldn't try that!

I work in construction here in Virginia, started 35 years ago with a shovel in hand as a laborer ,learned woodworking, now am a superintendent. In ALLmy time working with many African-Americans who were at base pay (as was I as a laborer) and would be classed below middle class Americans in pay , I never was friends with ,worker aside of ,or knew any who did not have some sort of I.D. to cash a payroll check on Friday. PLEASE SPARE US THE HARD SHIP JAZZ ,now if you want to say it takes a bit of forethought to register ahead of election day so be it , its too bad if some one not legal in the town or state cant vote, due to residency or lack of proper I.D. As a side note ,how do they cash their checks, get a rental to live in, by ciggies, or booze ....bet they have them to show then...wake up America!

This is typical Republican BS - I've got mine, you get yours.  And if you can't get yours, it's your fault.  There are already stories of senior citizens in several states who have voted for years, but who do not drive, and do not have photo ID's, being asked for their marriage certificates from 60 years before to prove who they are.  Republicans may well steal this election just as they did in 2000, but they will regret it in the long run.

Ah yes, evil Texas, where, as you say " In Texas, for example, showing a military ID or a concealed-gun license will get you a ballot, but a college ID won’t."

You've made  a false equivalence. Military IDs and gun licenses  are issued by the government. College ID are not. And in Texas, even illegals can into college and pay in-state tuition, in some states).

If anyone's voting rights are at risk, it's our oveseas military men and women, who don't get their ballots sent to them in time to be mailed back in violation of the law, so that they can be thrown out en masse by Democratic election officials. http://www.mvpproject.org/

Meanwhile, there are 20,000 dead people all ready to throw the election in swing state Ohio (http://www.foxtoledo.com/dpp/e...

But buying alcohol, a car, auto insurance, house, etc, aren't rights guaranteed by the constitution. Voting is.

It's not burdensome to the class of people who have credit cards, take  planes, buy alcohol in liquor stores, buy cars, purchase auto
insurance, enter into any number of different contracts - buying  house,
setting up a brokerage accounts, signing lease car/house, and receiving 
registered letters.  That's not the point.  The point is that there is another class of people for whom this would be a great deterrent to voting, even though they are just as much citizens as you or me, and lack of concern by politicians will keep them from ever being able to join the class you described.

Err so why would the elite want a Theocracy? Actually I think it's much easier to consolidate power in the elite with the gimme process, encourage people to stay dumb and dependent and they won't be able to understand the long term consequences of their decisions. Casting a VoOte doesn't mean you took the time to understand the election, and speaking doesn't mean you have anything to say

Balance is important.  It is not unreasonable to expect proof of citizenship to register to vote and picture ID to vote.  It seems unreasonable to restrict early voting by VALID registered voters.  The important issue is ensuring that only legal US citizens that are validly registered to vote in the appropriate district (only one district) can vote.  If there is currently no problem with illegal voters, then this will not change the outcome of any election.

Amen.  "full-on assault on voting rights"?  Are you serious?  Whose right is being infringed if you are asked to verify who you really are? You folks at AP are enslaved to identity politics and PC ideas.  Those foolish concepts debase the electoral process by emboldening the unscrupulous. When you keep your front door unlocked, you are inviting thieves to enter.
 We live in the USA, not Venezuela!

Maybe we need to be particular about who votes.....I mean come on if you can't answer basic simple questions should you be voting to decide who our president is?

Spot on Paul Weimer!

Precisely why the Democratic Party wants same day registration,  anti ID laws etc.  A stricter process means less fraud.  Less fraud means fewer Democrats.

It's time that the left face the facts, conservatives are just smarter people. We know how get a photo ID card, we know how to register to vote, we know how to vote absentee, we know what day the election is, we know how to drive or take a bus to go vote, we know that our employers must give us time off to vote. Conservatives are just more intelligent, adaptable problem solvers. The left likes to hold itself out as the side of deep thinkers, intellectualism and of course...nuance. If they can't manage to do the things that conservatives do easily, who was it that told them they were so smart. I believe they made the same mistake so many bad politicians make. They started believing their own press.

Anybody want to live in Greece? Because that's where we're headed...

If you don't care about the security of your vote it will be stolen.

Good god, look at identity theft how rampant it is - well so is election fraud.

One thing's for sure, nobody in Washington can find one single case of election fraud; according to Washington it's no big deal.

I wonder why.................

The greater our percentage of turnout for an election, the greater our percentage of uninformed ignorant voters.

I have always thought that those who can't be bothered to vote, probably shouldn't.

Exactly right. y rights as a voter are undermined when Democrats succeed in using massive voter fraud to sway elections.

People say there is little vote fraud -- but how would you know if you disallow any tools for even determining if it happens?  Some crimes can only be prevented, and not fully measured or detected.

The new tighter rules may prevent some illegal forms of electioneering.  People on the left have no problem with the IRS stripping the tax exemption from a conservative church whose minister tells his congregation to vote Republican.

But Sunday early voting was used by black churches to fire up the whole congregation to vote Democratic, and then promptly bus them all, including many who were otherwise not motivated to vote, to the polls, to vote for whoever was listed on the Democratic line.  Why is there a duty to underwrite this illegal electioneering?

Let me get this straight. . . .  Democrats in Maine don't bother to investigate or prosecute voter fraud, and that is supposed to be proof that voter fraud does not exist?  I guess if they don't prosecute rape and murder, those won't exist either.

1)       The photo ID argument is just plain stupid.  Others have listed the many mundane daily transaction that require a photo ID, so I will just point out that a great many democratic countries mandate an ID card for all adults.
2)      The argument based on the limited number of documented cases is a sort of circular logic – if you write vague, loose and ineffective fraud regulations, you will – of course – rarely be able to prove that fraud occurred.  That is why the new laws are needed.
3)      Nobody should be voting 35 days before an election.  Too much can happen that you should consider.
4)      What does it say about Democrats that they are counting on the felon vote?

I need a photo ID to get into the sauna at my country club.  Just how do these poor chaps without IDs ever get into their saunas?

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