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

The restrict-voting slice of the Right knows this is the truth.

Demographics don't matter. Who can and does vote does matter.  Control that and you control the electorate, and thus control elections.

Re felon voting: If you aren’t willing to follow the law yourself, then you can’t demand a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote.  The right to vote can be restored to felons, but it should be done carefully, on a case-by-case basis, not automatically.  Read more about this issue on our website:  http://www.ceousa.org/content/... 

“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast
the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” -
Joseph Stalin

Turnout is a national shame. I may have some figures a little wrong here but as I understand it Rick Perry's last election showed a 33% turnout for the General election in Texas. Of that he had a winning percentage that amounted to somewhere around 18% of the eligible Texas voters electing their governor. Add these obstacles to citizen participation and there you are, on the way to victory for those who wish to consolidate political and financial power toward the white elite. Anyone want to live in a Theocracy?

I'm all for laws which prevent illegal immigrants and dead people from canceling out my legitimate vote.

Liberals would be tightening up voting laws too if only illegals and dead people voted Republican, and you know it!

This is inane.  Completely inane.

The liberals whine & whine & whine but they haven't shown one legitimate reason not to require a state-issued ID to vote. Their poll tax argument is nonsense.

this bit about "burdensome photo ID's" is nonsense.  I need a photo ID to use my credit card, board a plan, buy alcohol, buy a car, purchase auto insurance, enter into any number of different contracts - buy a house, set up a brokerage account, sign a lease car/house, sign for a registered letter...

to call the process of determining eligibility "burdensome" is pure BS and blatantly untrue.

To get into college you need a valid photo ID.  To be on Social Security or get any government benefits you need to have valid ID.  At Best Buy to use your credit card you have to show a valid photo ID. 

We can discuss how much or how little voter fraud occurs, but I think it is comical that people are so desperate to fan the flames by invoking "Jim Crow" in order to increase turnout among Obama's dispirited coalition.

Yes, felons, those too lazy to register let alone become educated about their republic, illegal aliens, folks that are registered at the last minute by criminal enterprises like ACORN, et al.  Their you have the folks the modern Democrat PArty needs to pass its spent force of an agenda.  

You looters are pathetic, and history.

Is the author genuinely claiming that voter fraud is not in the least bit an issue?  Acorn?

Is the author also postulating that individuals capable of voting are incapable of actually getting a valid ID?  The election is on the calendar for some time.  That is not a lot to ask for something of such import.

What a pack of idiots.  You must have a photo ID to drive your car, get on an airplane, buy your booze, and participate in myriad important as well as frivolous activities, but it shouldn't be necessary that you should have an ID to exercise your most sacred right and duty in a free country?  Moron.  There are so many ways to cheat at the polling booth without an ID requirement, it isn't funny.  And let's stop playing games:  this isn't hypothetical, these are regular practices.

It seems the sides are pretty well-drawn. One side wants to register many voters to spread democratic principles and a few bad apples get thrown in which don't make a diiference. The other sides wants to disenfranchise many to get a few bad apples out. Which side are you on?

Caldwell is defending the indefensible.

He and his ilk are creating an environment that undermines the integrity of our elections.

States that allow illegals to get drivers licenses also allow voter registration at their DMVs.  Doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the problem with that scenario.

Requiring IDs at the polls would help keep elections clean.

People sign up for government benefits by showing ID. 

Election fraud does happen in the form of illegal voting & illegal registering.
ACORN comes to mind in the registering department.

Three people in North Carolina were convicted for voting twice for Obama in 2008, and one of the heads Mississippi's NAACP was convicted of casting illegal absentee ballots.

Does anyone believe everyone voting illegally was caught?  Not even close.

I'll bet if one of these folks who claim not to have ID had to produce one to claim a lottery win they would come up with one.  Same goes for the polls.

We need to require IDs at the polls, and absentee ballots should require the person show ID to obtain their first absentee ballot.

I suspect if the elections were clean we would often have different outcomes.

Liar.

It is becoming common to see these articles decrying the Republicans' "war" on voting when, for the most part, the proposals at issue involve nothing more than requiring voters to present identification either when registering or at the balance box or both.  Please explain what is wrong with requiring voters to establish that they are the person they say they are.  Are Democrats trying to protect the right to stuff ballot boxes with the votes of illegals, fictitious persons and the dead?  I come from Cook County, Illinois, where such shenanigans are not unheard of.

It's just awful that the legislature of the sovereign State of Wisconsin did the will of the People of Wisconsin, and forced those voting in our elections to actually reside in our state and be able to prove it.   Now they'll have to bus in people from Illinois a month in advance and camp out to be able to tamper with our free and fair elections.

Working poor need ID's, even welfare recipients need ID's.  We provide them free.  The only people really impacted are ACORN and those who registered illegal voters, and those who counted on having the ability to steal any close election in our state.

Welcome back to democracy and the re-enfranchisement of the legitimate voters.

I would like to see everyone vote that is qualified to do so.  But Caldwell is advocating doing nothing to reduce voter fraud, and this disenfranchises those that are qualified to vote.

I grew up in Chicago.  Every election, the Chicago Tribune documented cases of dead people voting.  Cases where voting machines had hundreds of votes tallied before the polls opened.  In Ohio in 2008, some inner city precincts had more votes than registered voters.

Is it too much to ask a voter to produce a photo ID?  I don't think so.

People are becoming insane in the classic sense of the word.  This article is astounding.

This article is trying to create an issue where there is none to be found. Voter ID laws have been upheld by the federal courts in state after state after state. Why? Because there is no substantive proof that such laws actually discriminate against anyone other than those that want to commit voter fraud. And yes, of course the passage of such laws is politically motivated, because voter fraud is a problem of Democrats and the left, not Republicans and the right. That is an absolute and verfiable fact. What is a shame is when articles like this come out and do not offer solution to voter fraud (which is rampant), but try to pose arguments to block laws that try to do something about it. Fine, Mr. Caldwell. What is your solution to offer protection against voter fraud? Oh, you have none... maybe that's because your side depends on fraud to bolster its political footprint.

And I just love his general reference to "studies" showing there is a discriminatory effect. Sure, he can make this statement because there are "some" studies, with wet-tissue thin premises and results oriented research, that purport to back up his point. However, there are many more studies that show no effect... and in some cases show that some minority groups tend to have MORE qualifying IDs than other groups because they depend on such IDs for their government benefits.  Better yet, let's have the author actually cite some of the studies he's referring to, that way his readers can make up their own minds as to the veracity of his arguments... but nooooo, can't have that. People might see through his bias, and reach an informed conclusion that is contrary to the one he supports. Don't take my word for it. As stated above, in federal court cases that were specifically carried out to get to the bottom of the merits of the whether such discrimination existed with these laws (in multiple states, BTW), the judges ruled over and over that there was no such discrimination after all the witnesses, studies (produced by both sides), etc. were given a full and fair review. I think that speaks for itself.

The reason why voter turnout is so low is not because people don't vote; it is because the voter registration rolls are out of date.  People move all the time, and very few of them inform the registrar of voters.   So the rolls include many people that have moved out of town.

It's totally disingenuous to say the low rate of successful prosecutions for voter fraud violations is somehow proof that voter fraud is nearly non-existant.  Voter fraud is a crime that is easy to prevent but, because votes are cast anonymously, almost impossible to prove after the damage has been done.

Every fraudulently cast vote disenfranchises a legitimate voter.

People who don't show up to vote are voting. They are legitimately using their right to be uninformed. There is no constitutional requirement that they participate in the electoral process and if they choose to stay uninformed and ignorant about the news and events of the day, then it would be highly unethical for them to vote, just for the sake of voting.
 
Too many elections have been won, usually by Democrats, due to voter fraud. And that is big indictment against our voting system. Commonsense laws that work to diminish voter fraud should be embraced and not attacked with sophistic arguments that compare apples to oranges.

Don't forget go to the doctor, write a check, buy Claritin-D, rent a hotel room, buy spray paint...

Don't forget go to the doctor, rent a hotel room, write a check, purchase OTC medicine like Claritin-D, buy spray paint...

It's funny how liberals have no trouble burdening the population with lots of paperwork, licenses and identification when it comes to anything else.  For instance, adding to your list, now they want every citizen to produce annual proof of insurance coverage.

Oh please......we've got more than 12 million illegal aliens running around this country, stressing our services and educational system to the breaking point.  Should they be able to vote yet, too?

I don't think having to prove with identification that you're a US citizen before you vote is unreasonable.

Totally ridiculous. I just went to the Post Office to pick up certified mail. Photo ID required. Get pulled over for speeding Photo ID required. Use a Credit Card. Photo ID required.  Buy a pack of cigarettes. Photo ID required. Buy Airline tickets. Photo ID required. The most serious threat to a democracy is organized voter fraud, like ACORN and all the splinter groups funded by raving anti-american,  George Soros. Apparently Patrick Caldwell is for voter fraud.

Good grief, I needed to show an ID to get a library card.  I need to show an ID to board a plane.  I need to show a military ID to shop at the commissary and/or BX.  Why are whiners complaining about showing an ID to vote - the most precious of our rights.  The left is trying to destroy America.  The reason they are for this, of course, is that promote efforts to vote multiple times, have felons vote who have committed acts whereby they forfeited their right to vote, and to have non-Americans vote.  In New Mexico we have found thousands of illegals on our voting rolls thanks to the Democrat party.

Perhaps the author should consider what the Supreme Court said on this matter:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04...
Apparently the court didn't agree with  the author's argument when they heard the Indiana voter ID law.  What has changed since then.

The only documented voter fraud occuring are these modern day "Jim Crow" laws aimed at keeping people of color and low income folks from voting.  The aim of these laws is NOT to prevent voter fraud, it is to prevent primarily Democratic-leaning folks from voting!

what does it say about community organizers that between 33 to 50% (i have heard both figures, i am sure the real % is somewhere in between) of their constituency does not have photo IDs?

on vacation recently, i was asked to produce ID to rent a motel room; when i balked that it was none of their business as i paid cash, the clerk told me that there was a town ordinance that required all room renter's ID information to be turned over daily to the local police to be checked for outstanding warrants. is it possible to do this for an election? should those wanted by law enforcement be allowed to vote?

First, there was significant voting fraug and voter registration fraud in 2008. For example all the ACORN workers' convictions over registering illegally, the NAACP lady who went to prision in Mississippi over multiple voting, and the Colorado
voting scandal of 2010 where thousands of votes were illegally cast in the tight Senate race (see Colorado Secretary of State report). The "unseen" voting fraud
occurs in 3 ways: voting dead people (popular in Chicago and other urban/minority areas), illegally registering illegal aliens with false ID papers (most have false ID papers to work), and the heavy use of absentee ballots sent to false addresses. Who will check the ID of these voters? Also, I suspect, but cannot prove, that many unionized workers in senior health care residences vote for their patients.

I believe it was hilary clinton who held the press conference to say obama supporters were engaging in voter fraud. None of the lame stream media broadcast her conference. I am now a republican

Of course there's little evidence of voter fraud - because there hasn't been any way to verify if someone is fraudulent!

It is NOT a burden to acquire an ID in order to vote. This is a strawman put up by the Democrats in order to garner support from the proletariat. I'm sick of victimization politics. Who was the genius that thought up same day voter registration? Did they really think fraud wasn't a concern or were they intending to just make it easier to steal elections? I think it's the latter.

It's always Democrats who try to make it easier for unqualified people to vote.  Is that the only way they can win elections?  Maybe we should ask Senator Franken.  He would know.

Yea! They're making it harder for me to cast votes for all my dead relatives!...

What's so hard about getting an ID to vote?!? Everybody has too; it's not like it's harder for any one person.. They want it to be easy to illegally vote for them but once you have them in office they'll make you do back flips through hoops to start and run a business, bear arms, or even just change your address.

Isn't it terrible when a politician wants legal, full time, non-felon, residents to be allowed to vote?

Voter ID laws are not burdensome. No one is restricted from voting by this law except the outright lazy.

Wow! Maine got all 1000 of it's registered voters to the polls. You have to show an ID to get on a plane, to drive a car, to cash a check and to purchase alc0hol and you think it's a burden too great to cast a vote. Get real.

Why would any of the groups you highlighted as likely Democrat voters not have a photo ID ?   If they can't muster up enough initiative to get an ID,  are they really capable of casting a vote ?

If you require photo ID to vote, you will add to unemployment!!!  Where else are all those felons at ACORN going to get a job?

Pat you ask who stole the election? Gore stole the popular vote count in the 2000 vote for President. There are numerous inner city boxes that voted 100% for him with in excess of 100% of registered voters turning out. No body said anything because of the distraction in Florida,and he would have won all these boxes anyway. However his win in the popular vote gave credence to his bogus challenge in Florida.

If you require photo ID to vote, you will add to unemployment.  Where else are all of those   f e l o n s   at   A C O R N  going to work?

If you require photo ID to vote, you will add to unemployment. Where else are all of those f e l o n s   at   a corn  going to work?

Worse yet. Clinton was elected President by 28.8% of registered voters - plain disgusting.

Here's an interesting quote, courtesy Media Matters, directly from Barack Obama:
       In a letter directed to Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler, Obama on
Friday pointed to one portion of Tanner's comments as evidence that
voter ID restrictions "do not disenfranchise minorities, and in fact
they actually benefit minorities."
      "For Mr. Tanner to now suggest, in an effort to defend his erroneous
decision, that photo identification are not necessary for minority
voters because 'they die first' shows just how far the Justice
Department has fallen," Obama wrote. [FoxNews.com, 10/20/07]

None of those things is the most basic right in a democracy.

What may seem like common sense is belied by facts, like the fact that these laws may disenfranchise 5 million people in the next election. To solve a problem that doesn't actually exist.

Unemployment will certainly increase if you require photo identification in order to vote.  You'll put all of those commun ity or ganizers out of work.

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