The most consequential election in our lifetime is still 10 months away, but it’s clear from the Obama administration’s order halting South Carolina’s new photo ID law that the Democrats already have brought a gun to a knife fight.
How else to describe this naked assault on the right of a state to create minimal requirements to curb voter fraud?
On Dec. 23, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez sent a letter ordering South Carolina to stop enforcing its photo ID law. Mr. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division that booted charges against the New Black Panther Party for intimidating voters in Philadelphia in 2008, said South Carolina’s law would disenfranchise thousands of minority voters.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson rejected Mr. Perez’s math and explained on Fox News why the law is necessary. The state Department of Motor Vehicles audited a state Election Commission report that said 239,333 people were registered to vote but had no photo ID. The DMV found that 37,000 were deceased, more than 90,000 had moved to other states, and others had names not matched to IDs. That left only 27,000 people registered without a photo ID but who could vote by signing an affidavit as to their identity.
Mr. Wilson told me by phone Thursday that he would file a challenge to the order in federal district court in January. Asked whether he felt South Carolina was being singled out, he declined to speculate on motives. However, citing the National Labor Relations Board’s order to invalidate the voter-approved union card check amendment, the NLRB’s order to stop a new Boeing Co. plant, and the Justice Department’s suit to halt the state’s immigration law, he said, “There certainly is a pattern of the federal government overreaching into South Carolina.”
Leading Democrats loudly equate recently enacted photo ID legislation as updated versions of Jim Crow laws that once robbed people of their constitutional right to vote simply because of their race. But photo ID laws and other voter integrity measures cover everyone. Like other states, South Carolina provides photo IDs if a person cannot afford one.
The U.S. Constitution empowers the states to enact voting procedures with minimal input from the national government, such as setting the voting age and election days for federal offices. The 15th and 19th amendments ensure that no one is denied the right to vote based on race or sex.
In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which authorizes the U.S. attorney general or a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to review changes to voting procedures or redistricting in nine states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia), some counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some townships in Michigan and New Hampshire.
Congress did so to counter clearly established patterns of voter intimidation of blacks. Now, the Justice Department, which, under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. could be renamed the Retribution Department, looks the other way depending on the race of the parties involved.
In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s 2005 photo ID law, which the Democratic Party and several interest groups had challenged as a “severe burden.”
But, as American Civil Rights Union attorney Peter Ferrara noted in the group’s friend- of-the-court brief:
“No one has been denied the right to vote by the Indiana Voter ID Law. The record clearly establishes without challenge that 99 percent of the Voting Age Population in Indiana already has the required ID, in the form of driver’s licenses, passports, or other identification. Of the remaining 1 percent, senior citizens and the disabled are automatically eligible to vote by absentee ballot, and such absentee voting is exempt from the Voter ID Law.”
Does that sound “severe” to you?As Mr. Ferrara notes, “the slight burden of additional paperwork for a fraction of 1 percent, to show who they are and thereby prove their eligibility to vote, cannot come close to outweighing the interests of all legitimate legal voters in maintaining their effective vote.”
A bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform in 2005 chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III found no evidence that requiring photo IDs would suppress the minority vote. The panel recommended a national photo ID system and a campaign to register voters.
In a 2008 column, Mr. Carter and Mr. Baker cited a study by American University’s Center for Democracy and Election Management that echoed the election commission. Among other things, researchers found that in three states - Indiana, Mississippi and Maryland - about 1.2 percent of registered voters had no photo ID.
Since the GOP took a majority of governorships and legislatures in 2010 and continued enacting voting safeguards, you can feel the panic in Democratic strongholds.
The Obama administration is playing the same race card that Democrats have played for decades. But this is not about race; it’s about whether legitimately cast votes will be wiped out by illegally cast votes.
In Chicago, a federal investigation of the 1982 gubernatorial election estimated that at least 100,000 illegal votes had been cast and that voter fraud had been routine for many years. In 1960, Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago Democrat machine almost certainly sealed John F. Kennedy’s presidential election by delaying reporting by Democratic-controlled precincts and counting them for Kennedy.
Vice President Richard M. Nixon, the Republican candidate, had a compelling case for a challenge, but chose not to do so. The media would have crucified him as a sore loser without seriously investigating fraud allegations.
Conversely, in 2000, when Democrat Al Gore challenged George W. Bush’s razor-thin victory in Florida, the media flogged Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris because she refused to overlook “hanging chads” and other questionable vote counting.
The stakes are enormous, and the Obama administration is quite aware of the danger posed by an aroused electorate on a level playing field.
With the economy in a ditch, their only hope of stemming the conservative tide might be to rig the returns, especially where political machines still prevail.
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.