The Liberal Fear of Voter Identification

Our Modern Lives

To cash a check or rent a movie or buy a six pack of beer you might be asked to show a photo ID. In the aftermath of Muslims behaving badly on September 11th, 2001, laws were passed to enhance our security. Henceforth, everyone entering a federal building or boarding a commercial airliner was required to present proof of identity that included a photograph. The most persuasive photo IDs are issued by state and federal authorities who at some time had demanded that the ID's holder present a birth certificate and other documentation.

So is it really outlandish to defend the integrity of our elections by requiring voters to show up at the polls with a first-rate photo ID? Of course not. We're patriots and the integrity of our elections means at least as much to us as our ability to rent a movie from Blockbuster. But to hear liberals tell it, asking racial minorities or anyone over 59 years of age to get a free photo ID is the equivalent of disenfranchisement. Please indulge me while I, an authentic adult, demolish the liberal myths about voter photo IDs, one stupid myth at a time.

In America, three states – Florida, Georgia and Indiana – now combat voter fraud by requiring a photo ID to cast a final vote: persons without a photo ID may cast provisional ballots which the voter can validate later by authenticating his identity within a grace period. Four states – Louisiana, South Dakota, Michigan and Hawaii – request a photo ID of all voters, but if the voter has no photo ID he is required to sign a sworn affidavit attesting to his identity on penalty of perjury. Seven more states – North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Texas and Mississippi – are now considering the adoption of a voter photo-ID requirement. So the theory and employment of voter photo-ID cards is not so new that it doesn't have a history that we can examine – we don't have to rely on speculative, and often hysterical, predictions about the consequences of requiring a photo ID.

Voter photo-ID cards alone will not stop election fraud. As long as some districts entrust their election monitoring, recounts and voting-machine servicing to members of the radical-left Service Employees International Union (SEIU), vote counts will be suspect. It's disheartening when a gubernatorial-election recount yields more votes than there are registered voters (King County, Washington); the same bloated vote counts occurred in several Wisconsin districts in 2008. The most notoriously padded vote count occurred in Chicago in 1960 when the totally corrupt Chicago Democrat Machine stole the presidential election for John F. Kennedy as a favor to JFK's daddy Joe Kennedy, by voting the dead in Chicago's graveyards.

The purpose of requiring voter photo-identification is to suppress voter impersonation at the polls, to stifle double voting by persons who are registered in more than one state or locality, to quash any voting facilitated by fictitious voter registration and to stop voting by legal and illegal aliens who are not citizens and have no right to vote in our elections. These are all worthwhile goals because bogus ballots cast by foreigners, impersonators and frauds are ballots stolen from honest Americans.

Recall the scandal of 2006 when workers for the left-wing organization called ACORN scoured poor neighborhoods looking to register lots more Democrat voters, only to emerge with thousands of fraudulently filled-out registration forms. The ACORN foot soldiers were paid a cash bounty for each completed registration form. Fraudulent registration sets the stage for voter impersonation at the polls. ACORN has submitted tens of thousands of fraudulent registration forms in many different jurisdictions.

It is doubly important that voter fraud is detected at the polls because the penalties imposed after the crime are too slight to deter its commission. In the 2008 case of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law. A similar decision in the same case by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the rarity of prosecutions for voter impersonation is “explained by the endemic under-enforcement” of voter fraud cases and “the extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” without the assistance of first-rate voter identification – such as a photo ID.

For example, in 1984 a New York State grand-jury investigation exposed a 14-year-long conspiracy in Brooklyn that cast thousands of fraudulent votes in state and congressional elections using roving gangs who impersonated both real and fictitious voters. One witness explained how he and his eight crewmen went from poll to poll, each of them casting in excess of 20 votes. His was one of about 20 touring crews. A voter photo-ID requirement would have stopped these political gangsters cold. Most jurisdictions engage in minimal or no screening efforts, so there is no reliable statistic that links voter impersonation to bogus voter registrations. [1]

To illustrate this point, I give you the left-leaning League of Women Voters which filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court hearing of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board in an effort to defeat Indiana's voter photo-ID law. The League drew special attention to a woman who had difficulty voting because of the Indiana law, but failed to disclose that this woman had attempted to vote in Indiana using her Florida driver's license as her photo ID! Worse yet, this same woman was registered to vote in Florida where she claimed residency and owned a second home, even going so far as to file for a homestead exemption on her property taxes in Florida. So the Indiana law did exactly what it was intended to do. [2]

The Vote Suppression Myth

The best voter-identification law would prevent fraudulent voting without reducing voter turnout. Because voter photo-ID laws now have a history, it can be claimed with confidence that these laws do not reduce voter turnout and do not have a disparate impact on minorities or the poor or the elderly. The vast majority of American citizens already possess a photo-ID, some more trustworthy than others. New Jersey, for example, requires in-depth documentation, such as a birth certificate or a passport together with sundry other documents such as tax forms and utility bills to establish state residency. New Mexico, by contrast, issues driver's licenses to illegal aliens without noting their non-citizen status on the license. In any case, states issue non-driver IDs to persons who can't or don't drive motor vehicles. States with voter photo ID requirements will issue such a photo ID to any valid registered voter free of charge.

A study by the University of Missouri concluded that voter turnout increased by almost 2% in Indiana in the first election after the introduction of a voter ID law (2006) [3] Counties with higher than average minority, poor or elderly populations displayed no detectable reduction in voter participation. According to the study, “the only consistent and statistically significant impact of photo ID in Indiana is to increase the voter turnout in counties with a greater percentage of Democrats relative to other counties.” [3]

A Rasmussen poll of likely voters (2010) demonstrated massive support (82%) for enhanced photo ID laws, a support that included all racial and ethnic categories. Rasmussen concluded that it was “a sentiment that spans demographics, as majorities in every demographic agree.” [4]

Likewise, a study by the University of Delaware and the University of Nebraska scrutinized election returns for the years 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. This study concluded that when viewed as either groups or as individuals, there was no reduction in voter turnout among blacks, Hispanics, women, the elderly or anyone else as a consequence of the implementation of voter photo-ID laws. It was their informed opinion that “concerns about voter identification laws affecting turnout are much ado about nothing.” [5]

A survey of registered voters in Maryland, Indiana and Mississippi by American University concluded that “showing a photo ID as a requirement of voting does not appear to be a serious problem in any of the states” because “almost all registered voters have an acceptable form of photo ID” [6] An election survey conducted in 2008 of 12,000 registered voters in all 50 states found no more then nine people who claimed they could not vote because of a voter ID requirement.

Close on the heels of several well-publicized prosecutions for voter fraud, voter turnout in Greene County, Alabama, which is 80% African American, increased.[7] It would seem that increased voter confidence in the honesty of elections increases voter turnout. The voter participation of African Americans in Georgia and Indiana was at an all-time high in both the primary and general elections of 2008, which was also the first presidential election held after these states passed voter photo-ID requirements.

The number of blacks voting in the 2008 primary was double what it had been in 2004, before the voter ID law took effect. The number of folks who had to vote a provisional ballot because they showed up at the polls without a proper photo ID was fewer than one in one thousand (0.1%). Georgia, with one of the toughest voter ID laws, had the largest voter turnout in its history in 2008; Democrat turnout jumped up an additional 6.1% from 2004, before the photo ID requirement. [8] The black share of Georgia's statewide vote increased from 25% in 2004 to 30% in 2008. [9] In nearby Mississippi, a state with many black voters and no voter ID requirement, the Democrat vote increased by only 2.35%.

The Georgia voter ID law has been upheld by every state and federal court in Georgia that reviewed it, up to and including the Georgia Supreme Court. These courts have held that the Georgia law does not unduly burden any racial or economic group, that it does not violate the Georgia or the U.S. Constitutions, or any federal voting rights law, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Of course, no amount of science or judicial finding could deter the propagandists at the ACLU and the NAACP from undermining voter confidence and inflaming minority fears by filing specious lawsuits against voter ID laws. When dismissing these baseless claims the federal court noted the fact that after years of making inflammatory assertions that there were hundreds of thousands of voters without a photo ID, the plaintiffs had yet to identify even one person who did not possess a photo ID or could not easily obtain one. The district court judge decided that

This failure to identify those individuals “is particularly acute” in light of the Plaintiffs' contention that a large number of Georgia voters lack acceptable Photo ID . . . The fact that Plaintiffs, in spite of their efforts, have failed to uncover anyone “who can attest to the fact that he/she will be prevented from voting” provides significant support for a conclusion that the photo ID requirement does not unduly burden the right to vote. [10]

Indiana has the nation's strictest voter ID law and yet the turnout for the Democrat presidential primary was four times greater than it was in 2004, before the voter ID law was in effect. In the November election Democrat voters increased their numbers by 8.32% over 2004. It was the greatest increase in Democrat voters in the nation. In neighboring Illinois, Obama's home state, the Democrat turnout increased a mere 4.4% – only half of Indiana's increase. Illinois has no voter ID requirement. Seventy-seven thousand additional Indiana voters turned out for the 2010 congressional election than voted in the 2006 congressional election. The black share of the 2010 vote was greater than it was in 2008, which was a record-setting year for the black vote. So what's the big deal?

In the January 2007 opinion by the Seventh United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upholding the Indiana law and affirming the previous decision by federal district court judge Sarah Evans Parker, Judge Richard A. Posner declared “It is exceedingly difficult to maneuver in today's America without a photo ID (try flying, or even entering a tall building such as the courthouse in which we sit, without one). And as a consequence, the vast majority of adults have such identification.”

The people cited in the liberal media as “victims” of voter ID laws seem to be just plain lazy or stupid. The New York Times trotted out Mary-Jo Criswell, 71, an Indiana voter who was told her previous form of ID no longer sufficed. From the New York Times:

“It was particularly galling for me since I was a former voting precinct committeewoman and I, of all people, should not be missing an election,” said Ms. Criswell, who is a Democrat.
“It's like I'm having to recreate my identity and build a paper trail after all these years of never having problems,” she said, explaining that her epilepsy had prevented her from ever getting a driver's license. Her passport expired in the 1950s, she said, and she did not have a copy of her birth certificate last November.

What a slacker! The woman was seventy-one years old and she didn't have a copy of her birth certificate? Why not? She had to produce proof of citizenship to get that passport. Where is it? State motor vehicle bureaus routinely issue non-driver photo IDs to epileptics; she's had years to get her lazy self this easy-to-get photo ID. Is she collecting from Social Security? That administration asks for lots of documentation, including proof of citizenship. But the New York Times does not ask any revealing questions. The Times article ends:

“Since last November's election, she said, she has obtained a copy of her birth certificate but has still not gotten the required photo ID.”

Translation: the woman is lazy.

Twenty-five states now require some form of identification at the polls. Only seven states require or request a photo ID; more states may require photo IDs in the future now that the Supreme Court has upheld the practice. This is from the New York Times of May 12th, 2008:

“In most of the states that require identification, voters can use utility bills, paychecks, driver's licenses or student or military ID cards to prove their identity. In the Democratic primary election last week in Indiana, several nuns were denied ballots because they lacked the required photo IDs.”

The hit-and-run line about the nuns being denied ballots is a classic bit of leftist agitprop. You're supposed to feel sorry for the nuns. Nuns are good; nuns are holy. Here is the reality that the New York Times withheld from its readers.

First, the nuns had willfully refused to obtain voter photo IDs. Second, the person who rebuffed the nuns was also a nun, who was in charge of the convent precinct. The nun in charge should have given her sister nuns provisional ballots as required by law, after which the voters in black would have had 10 days in which to verify their identity or sign an affidavit at the county clerk's office. The stiff-necked nuns could have obtained voter photo IDs from an office only two miles from their convent. Because they were all past 65 years of age, they could have cast absentee ballots without an ID. The whole incident reeks of bad faith and provocation; it smells like manufactured news.

In an echo of the federal case in Georgia, the federal court in Indiana cast a spotlight on the plaintiffs inability to produce anyone who had been unable to vote as a consequence of the photo-ID requirement. Here's the quote:

“Despite apocalyptic assertions of wholesale voter disenfranchisement, Plaintiffs have produced not a single piece of evidence of any identifiable registered voter who would be prevented from voting pursuant to [the photo ID law] because of his or her inability to obtain the necessary photo identification. Similarly, Plaintiffs have failed to produce any evidence of any individual, registered or unregistered, who would have to obtain photo identification in order to vote, let alone anyone who would undergo any appreciable hardship to obtain photo identification in order to be qualified to vote.” [11]

The United States Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter law on April 28th, 2008. From the New York Times of April 29th, 2008:

“This decision not only confirms the validity of photo ID laws, but it completely vindicates the Bush Justice Department and refutes those critics who claimed that the department somehow acted improperly when it approved Georgia's photo ID law in 2005,” said Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission and a former Justice Department official.

The state of Mississippi is a crucial swing state in which recent presidential election outcomes have been won by razor-thin margins. In 2008, Missouri legislators sought to tighten their state's lax election laws. State Representative Stanley Cox, a Republican from Sedalia was the sponsor of an amendment to Missouri's state constitution that would have required voters to authenticate their American citizenship.

“The requirements we have right now are totally inadequate,” Mr. Cox observed. “You can present a utility bill, and that doesn't prove anything. I could sit here with my nice photocopier and create a thousand utility bills with different names on them.” From October 2002 to September 2005, the Justice Department indicted 40 voters for registration fraud or illegal voting, 21 of whom were non-citizens. Given the high court's recognition of sweeping under-enforcement of voter fraud cases the real numbers must be much higher. Mr. Cox explained that Missouri's constitution already requires that voters be American citizens; he said his amendment was intended to enhance enforcement of that requirement.

Millions of illegal aliens live almost normal lives within our borders because they have assumed false identities, so the threat of vote casting by illegal aliens is real. Thor Hearne, a lawyer for the conservative American Center for Voting Rights, cited the 1996 California congressional race between the Republican Bob Dornan and his Democrat challenger Loretta Sanchez, who won by a narrow margin. Dornan challenged the vote count, claiming that Sanchez had been the beneficiary of bogus votes cast by illegal aliens. A 14-month investigation by state, county and federal authorities turned up 748 votes illegally cast: 624 by non-citizens and 124 that officials had already discarded. It could not be determined if Sanchez had won on the strength of bogus ballots.

Thor Hearne suggested that opponents of his amendment could put their time to better use by helping future voters get their documentation in order. The New York Times responded that “organizations working in Arizona say they are doing just that and running into problems.” To illustrate their point the Times offered us this:

“The requirement is having a devastating effect on our voter registration work in Latino communities because so many citizens simply don't have a passport or original birth certificate,” said Michael Slater, deputy director of Project Vote, a liberal advocacy group that is working with Acorn, a national organizing group, to sign up new voters in Arizona.

Yup, they're talking about that Acorn, the Lords of Election Fraud; the totally discredited far-left “national organizing group” that fabricated tens of thousand of bogus voter registration forms. Even so, we are left wondering why any Latino born in America would experience elevated difficulty finding his original birth certificate; the Latino parents of children born here guard this document carefully. If the Latino was a former citizen of a foreign country, but is now an American citizen, then he probably has his recently-issued naturalization papers at his fingertips. In any case, no foreigner becomes an American citizen without documenting his identity. If, in fact, the Latino is not an American citizen, then he has no right to vote in any American election. So the whole “Latinos have it harder” ploy doesn't pass the smell test.

The Poll Tax Smear

When every dire prediction that voter ID rules would reduce minority turnout was proven false, the opponents of voter ID rules tried to smear the enhanced election safeguards by calling them a “poll tax.”

How taxing is it for a citizen to go to an office and receive a free voter ID card, a card that will relieve him forever from the burden of collecting odd bits of documentation (utility bills, property tax bills, etc.) before every election? There would only be the one-time-only incidental “costs” of getting your hands on your birth certificate and of the short travel to the registrar. The poll tax comparison was cited in a Georgia challenge only to be slapped down in a federal court which concurred with the Indiana federal court, which held that

[Such an argument] represents a dramatic overstatement of what fairly constitutes a “poll tax.” Thus, the imposition of tangential burdens does not transform a regulation into a poll tax. Moreover, the cost of time and transportation cannot plausibly qualify as a prohibited poll tax because those same “costs” also result from voter registration and in-person voting requirements, which one would not reasonably construe as a poll tax.

A Washington Post article titled “Photo IDs for all voters urged by commission” enumerates the recommendations of a commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker for improving the quality of America's elections. Here's a quote:

“The commission report states that by adopting a uniform voter ID card, minorities would be better protected from shifting standards for identification at individual polling places.”

Yes! As we have seen, minority participation at the polls increased after strict voter-identification laws were enacted. That's because every minority voter, and everyone else who had secured a proper photo ID, could stride to his polling place with confidence that he would not be challenged. So a voter ID card is good for minorities, and for everyone else, because it erases all doubt about who is a citizen with a right to cast a ballot and who is an impostor who ought to be send packing back to his homeland.

Thomas Clough
Copyright 2011
August 31, 2011

1. Hans A. von Spakovsky, Stolen Identities, Stolen Votes: A Case Study in Voter Impersonation, Legal Memorandum No. 22, Heritage Foundation (March 10, 2008), available at
2. Cindy Bevington, Voter Cited by Opponents of Indiana's ID Law Registered in Two States, Evening Star, January 9, 2008.
3. Jeffrey Milyo, The Effects of Photographic Identification on Voter Turnout: A County Level Analysis, Institute of Public Policy Report 10-2007, Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri (Nov. 10, 2007), available at
4. 82% Say Voters Should Be Required to Show Photo ID, Rasmussen Reports (Aug. 18, 2006), available at
5. Jason D. Mycoff, Michael W. Wagner, and David C. Wilson, The Empirical Effects of Voter-ID Laws: Present or Absent, PS: Political Science & Politics, 42 (2009), 121-126.
6. Voter IDs Are Not the Problem: A Survey of Three States, Center for Democracy & Election Management, American University 37 (Jan. 2008) available at
7. Hans A. von Spakovsky, Absentee Ballot Fraud: A Stolen Election in Greene County, Alabama, Legal Memorandum No. 31, The Heritage Foundation (Sept. 5, 2008).
8. Press Release, American University, Much-hyped Turnout Record Fails to Materialize – Convenience Voting Fails to Boost Turnout (Nov. 6, 2008)
9. Davis Bositis, Blacks and the 2008 Election, A Preliminary Analysis, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (Nov. 2008).
10. Common Cause of Georgia v. Billups, 504 F.Supp.2d 1333, 1380 (N.D. Ga. 2007).
11. Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokita, 458 822-823 (S.D. Ind. 2006).