Liddick: Citizen, gamesmanship and the right to vote
March 25, 2014
"There should be an effective, impartial, non-discriminatory, and accurate voter-registration procedure that ensures all eligible citizens of the right to vote and protects against multiple voting." — Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Election Observer's Guide, fifth edition.
Coming soon to a U.S. Circuit Court near you: an appeal from the Obama Administration's Election Assistance Commission, which was recently told that its refusal to include proof-of-citizenship requirements on election registration forms was "unlawful."
The decision, from U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren in Wichita, Kan., was triggered by the Assistance Commission's distribution of a voter registration form that differed from the state's document in that it didn't require proof of citizenship. Although most voters registering in Kansas and Arizona used their states' versions, a substantial number submitted the federal, causing some officials to ask why. And to request that the commission change its form to reflect state law, which it refused to do.
Judge Melgren's decision held that the commission had no legal right to deny requests from Arizona and Kansas to include proof-of-citizenship requirements on the federal voter registration form because "the Court finds that Congress has not pre-empted state laws requiring proof of citizenship …" Though undoubtedly annoying to progressives, who wish only an unbounded field of power for the federal government, this is congruent with the Constitution's language in Article I granting both states and Congress the power to regulate elections.
The Commission will doubtless continue to refuse the states' requests and there will be a rush to appeal the decision. There's an election at stake this year and as we have seen before, this administration's motto seems to be "To hell with the Constitution when Democrats need votes!" And they aren't too picky about where they get them.
The opposition to proof-of-citizenship and proof-of-identity requirements for voting comes in two flavors. One, voiced by Democrat Arizona state Senator Steve Gallardo, calls it "voter suppression," arguing that students, minorities and the elderly — most likely to vote "progressive and liberal," will find the requirements impossible to deal with. Not only is this a patronizing insult — the good senator evidently believes these groups incapable of undertaking simple, if time-consuming, tasks — it also raises an important question. Is it really a good thing that those too incompetent, uninterested or inert to prove identity, or citizenship by birth or naturalization, can help choose the leader of the Free World? On what basis will they decide?
The second widely-heard complaint is that the whole issue is a tempest in a teapot, since the possibility of non-citizen voting is miniscule, and "there is no evidence of voter fraud in recent elections." Without proof-of-citizenship and proof-of-identity requirements, how is one to prove that the person presenting your utility bill as proof of residency and ability to vote is really you and not your evil twin Skippy? One cannot both demand evidence and work to prevent its collection.
There are now almost 15,700 voter registrations in Kansas awaiting proof of citizenship. This is not probative by itself, but when the state can winnow through them to determine actual eligibility, we may finally have a hard number of fraudsters. This may be one reason the "breathing qualifies one to vote, but it's not essential" crowd is moving heaven, Earth and the court system to prevent it: fear of the result.
Why is this important? Because citizenship is the bedrock requirement for voting in any electoral system. The OECD, whose "Election Observer's Guide" was referenced above, recognizes this. Several chapters emphasize the importance of integrity in voter registration and positive identification, especially when election-day enrollment at polling stations is allowed. In such instances, the OECD calls for marking voters' fingers, noting participation on a voter's credentials, or using other measures difficult to circumvent, to prevent shenanigans. This is essential because it is not only important that the process be free from fraud; more importantly, it must be seen to be fraud-free. Trust in the electoral process is crucial to citizens' acceptance of the results; even the appearance of corruption weakens the authority of an elected leader.
All of which is lost on those who argue that voters' convenience trumps all, and that anyone with initiative enough to rise from the couch and get themselves as far as a polling place — or increasingly, the mailbox — informed or not, engaged or not, citizen or not, is entitled to select our officials.
It's a recipe for failure that will make our elections like those of Uzbekistan or Venezuela; leaders they produce will be similar as well. One might ask the promoters of such lax standards what they expect to gain — if it wasn't already so embarrassingly obvious to us all.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County.
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