You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

EDITORIAL: The sanctity of the ballot requires photo IDs

An ‘honor system’ is no way to protect the integrity of elections

- - Thursday, May 1, 2014

"Vote early, vote often" is a staple of election lore across America, and several judges who follow fashions have struck a blow to advance the work of thieves of the ballot. A state judge in Arkansas and a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled recently that the honor system is insurance enough against stolen elections.

U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman on Tuesday struck down Wisconsin's new voter-ID law, revealing a low opinion of the ability of blacks and Hispanics to obey the law like everyone else.

"It is more likely to burden those voters with the cost of obtaining a photo ID that they would not otherwise obtain," wrote Judge Adelman. "This burden is significant not only because it is likely to deter blacks and Latinos from voting even if they could obtain IDs without much difficulty, but also because blacks and Latinos are more likely than whites to have difficulty obtaining IDs."

This, it seems to us, is an old-fashioned view of minorities. All citizens, regardless of race, are required by federal law to obtain Social Security cards. In a "your papers, please" society, no one can board a plane or conduct a financial transaction without a driver's license or state-issued identity card. It's a burden, but a burden everyone has to bear, regardless of race or color.

The ruling bears the whiff of raw partisanship. Judge Adelman spent two decades as a Democratic state senator in the Wisconsin Legislature before he was appointed to the federal bench in 1997. The Wisconsin state attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican, will appeal the ruling. He will be armed with a 2008 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case titled Crawford v. Marion County Election Board.

In that case from nearby Indiana, the high court upheld a similar voter-ID law. The majority included Justice John Paul Stevens, since retired as a bulwark of the liberal wing of the U.S. Supreme Court, who observed there was no evidence that anyone would be unduly burdened or denied the right to vote by the voter-ID law.

In Little Rock, Pulaski Circuit Judge Tim Fox cited his state's constitution last week to declare a voter-ID law "void and unenforceable." The state attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, said the state of Arkansas would appeal.

Mr. McDaniel's sense of duty is a breath of fresh air, considering Democratic state attorneys general from Pennsylvania to Illinois to California have been taking their cues from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, whose partisanship knows no bounds and who refuses to defend laws he and his boss don't like.

The Virginia Voters Alliance, an elections-integrity group, demonstrates the need for proper voter-ID in a new study of what's actually happening at the polls. A cross-check of voter rolls between Virginia and Maryland turned up 44,000 persons registered in both states, 164 of whom actually cast ballots in both states in 2012. Those double votes may appear to the unwary as inconsequential, but a special election in Virginia early this year to fill a vacant state Senate seat was won by the Democratic candidate by just 11 votes. This gave control of the Senate to the Democrats. The sanctity of the ballot is never inconsequential.