Imagine a role as important as choosing our leaders. America requires voters who are honest and have integrity to ensure the continuation of our democracy. During the 2004 Washington State governor’s race, Christine Gregorie defeated incumbent Governor Dino Rossi by only one hundred and twenty-nine votes. Allegations of voter fraud poured in during the weeks after the election. The investigation discovered over 1,400 cases of felon voting, over fifty votes from dead individuals, and two votes from illegal immigrants. Fraud is a truly un-American concept and should be discouraged. Since voter fraud threatens the integrity of America’s election system, voter identification laws and DREs can easily solve voter fraud.
Research suggests voter fraud does occur throughout the nation; most of the time voter fraud is intentional manipulation. In reality, voter fraud is a deliberate act of deception that can change the outcome of an election (Rokita et al. 1 par 2). Possibilities of voter fraud changing the outcome of elections has grown in the past few elections, which have been decided by only thousands of votes. In the 2000 Presidential election, for example, voter fraud in Florida was closely under investigation. An article in New York Daily News found that around 46,000 New Yorkers were registered to vote in both New York and Florida. In the dead-heat race, President Bush won Florida by a little over five hundred votes (Von Spakovsky 2 par 12). Given the fact that combined Florida and New York have fifty-eight Electoral College votes, it is imperative that each voter cast a single vote.
Throughout history, the methods that Americans use to cast their ballots have led to inadvertent fraud. The way Americans vote is extremely important to America’s free and fair elections (Conrad 13). For instance, punch-card ballots were the standard during the 2000 Presidential election. Punch card ballots have the edge over oral voting by being paper because they leave a traceable paper trail. However, paper ballots allow for intentional voter fraud by the ballots being hidden or even destroyed. The punch card ballots have another weakness as well: they cannot be corrected if a mistake is committed, and if a single chad does not detach cleanly, the vote might not be counted. Should votes be thrown out just because equipment does not make a clean cut? America does not need a president who reached the Oval Office because of faulty machines.
As a result of the massive headache caused by punch card ballots, the United States government looked for newer methods of voting. Optical scanners were supposed to be the replacement for punch cards. The optical scanning systems are reliable and quickly tally the results; all voters are required to do is bubble in a circle or complete an arrow. Unfortunately, optical scanning still has drawbacks. The pencil marks can be erased and changed, and the ballot can still be hidden or destroyed. During the last decade, the methods of voting have changed drastically, going from a punch card ballot to optical scanning systems; as a result, America’s elections have become more reliable. Most of the time, however, the machines are not at fault; voters are.
Politics is regarded as one of the earliest professions; fraud has played a role in every civilization, from ancient Greece and Egypt to modern America. Throughout centuries, different types of voting fraud have been invented. In America, four main types of voter fraud exist: double voting, dead voting, non-citizen voting, and impersonation. Just how prevalent are these types of voter fraud? Although voter fraud does not occur in all of America’s elections, it is clear from reports and even trials that America’s government needs to take actions to secure America’s elections (Von Spakovsky 2 par 14). Americans are usually unaware of the impact that fraud can create in elections throughout the nation in a variety of ways.
Double voting is exactly as the name implies: a single person voting twice. Numerous examples can be spotted just in recent elections. For example, a woman tried to vote in Indiana but was stopped when she presented a Florida driver’s license. Investigators soon discovered that she was a resident of Florida. The lady had already cast a ballot in Florida and then traveled to Indiana to cast another ballot (Von Spakovsky 2 par 11). Individuals such as this lady are threating the continuation of America’s fair elections just to increase a candidate’s chance of winning. Double voting should never be morally acceptable and must be discouraged.
Even more surprising than double voters, dead voters have risen from the dead in order to vote. The passage of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) created many loopholes that allowed thousands of dead voters to vote for over a decade (Talley 1 par 8). In a Memphis precinct, an election was won by only thirteen votes. However, reporters found that the names of dead individuals were used to cast ballots (“Dead Voter” 1 par 1). In another instance, detectives discovered that almost 12,000 dead individuals in Missouri were listed as eligible voters for the 2004 election. In some cases, ballots were cast by some of these individuals (“Dead Voter” 1 par 3). When New York compiled a list of its voters, the state found almost 77,000 dead voters who were still on its voting list. Further investigation revealed that almost three thousand of these dead voters have voted after they passed away (Ferro 1 par 3). In the 21st Century, given the advancement of American resources, election officials are capable of checking the “life status” of individual voters. Why would Congress intentionally leave an avenue for voter fraud open for such a long period? The next category of voter fraud is quite worrying.
Imagine that an immigrant cast the last ballot that determines America’s next President, simply because the candidate promised to deliver programs to help illegal immigrants. Given the increasingly high rate of illegal immigration, non-citizen voting is a major concern. An incidence of non-citizen voting occurred in 1996. A United States House of Representatives race was in peril of being thrown out because of non-citizen involvement. In the California election, Loretta Sanchez defeated U.S. Representative Bob Dornan by approximately 1000 votes. When the House of Representatives investigated, the House found “clear and convincing” evidence that non-citizen voting could have changed the outcome of the election. According to the information uncovered from the House investigation, over six hundred votes were from non-citizens. Evidence was found that another two hundred more non-citizens could have voted (Von Spakovsky 2 par 13). According to the Declaration of Independence, only American citizens have the right and privilege to cast a ballot. Non-citizens should not be able to change the flow and power of government, when, for the most part, the non-citizens are illegal.
Unfortunately, Americans are the number one committers of voter fraud in the United States, by simply, but intentionally, pretending to be someone else in order to cast a vote for that person. This unpatriotic act of voter impersonation comprises a large percentage of fraud claims in the United States but is also the most preventable type of fraud. In 2007, during a city-council election, a former zoning president realized that a group of men had been given numerous index cards by two individuals who had previously voted. When one of the men tried to vote in the city-council election, the zoning president noticed that one of the men who were given an index card was trying to vote in the name of another person who had moved from the area. The zoning president confronted that man, and when police arrived, the guy admitted that he was paid $10 to vote for another individual (Von Spakovsky 2 par 7). Regrettably, many people are able to get away with voter impersonation thanks to large voter communities across the nation. Americans are taught that everyone is entitled to a single vote; however, in today’s elections, some have hundreds of votes.
In a nation as intuitive and adaptive as America, the country should be able to find a solution to voter fraud. Voter identification can deter numerous types of fraud, such as impersonation, double voting, and illegal voting (Talley 2 par 10). Although controversial, this solution would lower the amount of fraud currently in America’s elections. According to Pelahatchie, Mississippi, Mayor and state Senator candidate Knox Ross, voter fraud is a problem that should not exist, and voter identification laws are the only way to put an end to the fraud. Across the United States, more than seventy-five percent of Americans support such a requirement (Von Spakovsky 1 par 2). According to Answers.com, voter identification can be defined as a card that is mailed from a state Circuit Clerk’s office that has information about an individual, such as his or her name, birth date, and address, as well as the most recent verified photograph of the individual. Most voters already have voter identification with their driver’s license, and would not be required to show another form of identification. For voter fraud to be so complex a political game, voter identification is a truly common sense solution.
Promoters of voter identification claim that the laws can bring a more secure election. Mayor Ross deems that in larger communities, voter identification can reduce the amount of fraud by up to ninety percent as well as increase voter participation (Ross). Most people are willing to exercise their voting privilege as long as voters consider the elections to be fair and open. Studies conducted by the Heritage Foundation, as well as the Universities of Missouri, Delaware, and Nebraska-Lincoln, show that voter identification laws have no effect on voter turnout (Von Spakovsky 4 par 18). In fact, the Census Bureau has confirmed that numerous surveys conclude that more than a ten percent increase in African-American voting occurred after the state of Georgia passed its voter identification law. By comparison, African-American participation in Mississippi, a state that did not have a voter identification requirement at the time, saw only a two percent increase (Von Spakovsky 3 par 16). Even more shockingly, Georgia’s Secretary of State stated that Georgia had a more than twenty percent growth in voter turnout in minority voters in the 2010 mid-term elections than the state saw in the 2006 mid-terms (Von Spakovsky 3 par 17). Voters who believe that their votes count are clearly more likely to vote in America’s elections. Unfortunately, many groups sued over voter identification laws in the states of Georgia and Indiana, claiming that voter identification laws depress minority voters and prevent those voters from participating in America’s democracy.
In 2008, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, cleared the way for states to draft legislations of voter identification when the Court ruled that Indiana had the right to require its voters to show identification in order to vote because of numerous examples of voter fraud in America’s history (Von Spakovsky 1 par 4). Since that time, over thirty states have drafted and passed voter identification laws in order to combat voter fraud. The Civil Rights Act requires that some states, particularly the states that enacted Jim Crow laws, clear any changes to their voting practices with the Department of Justice before the changes can take place. During the course of the last four years, the Obama administration has taken measures to prevent states from implementing voter identification requirements and has even sued states that enacted such requirements (Von Spakovsky 8 par 16-18). Why would the Administration take steps to prevent laws that are proven to deter voter fraud? The Obama Administration considers that voter identification requirements disenfranchise voters. If voter identification does disenfranchise voters, are everyday people disenfranchised their entire life? For many items, an identification card is required to purchase. Items such as alcohol and medicines require a valid photo identification card. In order to be allowed into ACT testing sites, test takers must present a photo identification card. In order to vote, individuals must meet minimal requirements, set by state and federal authorities (DeLaney 314). United States law states that voters must be a citizen of the United States before the individual can vote. Mississippi law requires that voters are residents of Mississippi for thirty days. As in any state, voters must be a minimum of eighteen years old and cannot be a felon or have been ruled by a court as being mentally ill (DeLaney 321-322). Voter identification laws, in place with registration requirements, could deal a crippling blow to illegal voters. To secure America’s elections, voter identification requirements are an intelligent idea, which would create minimal changes to the system. Voter identification, paired with the method that Americans vote could greatly reduce the amount of fraud in America’s election.
DREs or direct recording electronic voting machines are the method that Americans use to vote today. DREs are easy to use, can be programed in many languages, and, most importantly, ask voters to confirm their vote. DREs can print out a voting “receipt” if necessary. DREs are not without flaws; as with any technology, DREs are vulnerable to computer viruses, as well as hardware and software failures (Conrad 14-15). DREs are quite useful machines, if interlocked in a network. Hinds, Rankin, and Madison counties in the state of Mississippi have a special network that integrates the DREs. When an individual tries to commit voter fraud, computers will pop up an alert in all three counties. When the alert pops up, computers automatically remove the individual’s vote from the system. When an individual is found to be guilty of voter fraud, authorities move in and arrest the suspect (Ross). Integration is a great advantage of DREs and has stopped numerous double-voting schemes in the tri-county area.
The advancement of technology and voter identification laws in the United States will determine whether or not voter fraud will continue to be in the future. Over the eons, voting fraud has caused the fall of leaders and the rise of totalitarian regimes. In the United States, voter fraud has changed the leaders who decide America’s future, from President to Representative. Voter fraud threatens the integrity of America’s elections; however, voter identification and DREs hold the key to the solutions that America requires.