Board battles over voter ID laws

CCGA takes a lot of heat for supposedly being “liberal”. Well all those who assume we are such, clearly haven’t had a look at our Governing Board. We are committed to being non-partisan, and cross ideological. Our Board is united in their support for ethics reform, they courteously disagree on other issues unrelated to our top priorities. For proof of this look no further than the exchange that took place between Board members, when Bob Irvin, executive committee member, and former Republican House leader, sent out the following article for his fellow members to consider.

The column up for discussion appeared in USA Today on October 21st, and was written by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky. It discusses the prevalence of voter fraud, and dismisses a widely cited study which claims voter fraud is very rare. The authors argue that voter fraud is easy to commit without voter id laws, and that the controversial laws are designed to ensure that fradulent voters do not discount the voices of the legitimate ones. Read the full article here

Please be aware that the views and opinions expressed in this post are not necessarily those of Common Cause Georgia or Common Cause national. 

Our intent with this blog is to allow for informed opinions from all perspectives, we realize that many posts will be controversial and not necessarily match our organization’s opinion, however, we think that vigorous debate is healthy for democracy and encourages public engagement. We welcome blog contributions that encourage citizens to engage in the political process.

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14 Responses to Board battles over voter ID laws

  1. John Sugg says:

    Bob, this deserves a response. The authors are two fringe right-wing hacks. Fund comes out of the American Spectator “hate Clinton” crowd, and von Spakovsky is best known for politicizing his recess appointment to the Federal Elections Commission. Notably, even the Bush Justice Department criticized him. His forte was devising schemes that would disenfranchise poor and minority voters.

    What has been the real evidence of voter fraud? In this election cycle, all of the fraud is with your party. The GOP in several states was forced to end voter registration drives because of a notorious outfit called “Strategic Alliance Consulting.” There have been criminal complaints in Florida of voter fraud involving a paid consultant to Romney. Some of the most egregious examples have been employees of Strategic Alliance tearing up registrations of people who were Democrats. By comparison, with all of the screeching by the right’s noise machine a few years ago about ACORN, Fox et al neglected to note that it was ACORN itself that alerted officials to dubious activities of some registration employees. The GOP, by comparison, has known for years of Strategic Alliance’s fraudulent activities.
    Follow the story here, here, here and (Jay Bookman’s report) here.

    And, of course, I’ve been following the real fraud story since the 1990s. Here’s an article I wrote that might refresh your memory on that fine Georgia Republican legislator, Sue Burmeister, who opined that blacks only voted if they were paid to vote. See:

    In the 1990s, I was the editor of the alternative newspaper in Tampa, the Weekly Planet. Local elections officials leaked an intriguing story to me. Jeb’s notorious secretary of state, Katherine Harris, had sent purge lists to all of Florida’s counties. Hillsborough (Tampa) officials began vetting those lists. The primary reason for someone being on the list was that they were a felon – also, wrong address, etc. (but the local officials routinely did that sifting). The Hillsborough officials found only a small percentage of the people on the list should have been purged. Almost none of them were felons. Under Jeb’s mandate, the rule was “guilty until proven innocent.” Most people who were purged had to prove that didn’t merit deletion from the voting rolls; in many cases, they only found out when they went to vote, and were denied their franchise.

    I started pursuing the story. Along the way, I met an American reporter working for the BBC, Greg Palast, who was tracking the story on a statewide basis. The mainstream media, notably the big dailies in the state, were fixated on hanging chads. Palast and I, in separate reporting initiatives, hanging chads were a distraction, and we realized tens of thousands of Floridians were purged wrongfully. The major purge list included 57,700 names, and about only 3 percent should have been scrubbed from voting lists. Most of those people were minorities. Another 40,000 people had been convicted of crimes – but their rights had been restored and they were eligible to vote: Harris and Bush purged them also.
    Doing the purging was Atlanta’s own ChoicePoint. As Palast wrote in his book, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy”: “Was ChoicePoint paid to get it wrong? Every single failure — to verify by phone, to sample and test, to cross-check against other databases — worked in one direction: to increase the number of falsely accused voters.”

    An analysis by BBC showed that Al Gore would have gained about 22,000 votes net if all of the purged – but eligible – voters had been allowed to cast their ballots. American would have been saved from the awful debacle of the Bush years.

    For the record, Palast is a helluva muckraking journalist (and the AJC last year called me a “muckraking columnist). Palast angers a lot of people, and he’s controversial; that said, he had the full support of BBC. But this was a story that I was involved in for years. I saw the purge lists in Tampa, and I vetted hundreds of people on those lists myself – and almost never found a felon or found another reason to purge a person.

  2. Emmet Bondurant says:

    Everone should read Jane Mayer’s article in this week’s New Yorker on von Spakovsky “The Voter Fraud Myth” The photo I’d laws originated not from the legislatures, but from ALEC and corporate America.

  3. Bob Irvin says:

    Responses and debate are good. Thanks for this!

    To be clear, I’ve never said or believed, and I don’t think that Hans or John Fund said, that voter fraud is a one-party issue. Nor is it limited to fraudulent registration. To me, it strains common sense to say that no checking mechanism is appropriate, when the stakes (an election) are so high – another detriment of big government — and the activity (fraudulent voting) is so easy to perform and so hard to prove.

    All the best, my friend. Good debate.

  4. Jon Sinton says:

    I believe Mr. von Spakovsky is responding to this indictment of his argument in this much longer and better documented investigation in The New Yorker:

    Who Created the Voter-Fraud Myth? : The New Yorker

    Hans van Spakovsky believes that America is facing a voting-fraud crisis. But is voter fraud really as prevalent as he and other Republicans seem to believe?

  5. Bob Irvin says:

    I can’t speak for other states, but the first voter ID law in Georgia came from a bipartisan effort by two legislators: Rep. Sonny Dixon (D-Chatham) and me—not from ALEC or “corporate America”.

  6. Jon Sinton says:

    I’m just seeing email from this afternoon and, separately, sent along the link to the excellent and extremely well-documented New Yorker article. Additionally, here is a video clip of ALEC, Heritage Foundation and Moral Majority co-founder, the late Paul Weyrich, explaining to a 1980 gathering of the Moral Majority precisely why they should engage in voter suppression:

    Paul Weyrich – “I don’t want everybody to vote” (Goo Goo) – YouTube

  7. Bob Irvin says:

    Wow, a 32-year-old video clip! And from a dead person, too! :-)

  8. Grene Baranco says:

    I remember discussing this in a board meeting years ago and the conclusion was that we were worrying about an issue that really doesn’t exist in any substantial capacity. Even John Sours, a republican, agreed that voter fraud was exaggerated. Is my memory correct?

  9. Kerwin Swint says:

    The AP and Washington Post report today that hundreds of illegal immigrants have been found on voter registration lists in Colorado:

  10. Joy Kramer says:

    Maybe ID’s don’t matter either way, if you have people like this taking the registrations.,0,4470043.story?track=rss

    My earlier question was directed at the strong likelihood that state governments do not do their job to purge the records when people move. If you rely on the post office, (ha ha) you’re going to get alot of people on the books who should not be there.

    We should be careful as well, to differentiate between accurate rolls (a good thing) with actual voter fraud (rarely found) One does not presume the other. Bob makes and excellent point, that CC national should also pursue absentee ballots.

    I believe it is a federal crime and a minimum $10,000 fine if you are found guilty of voter fraud. I don’t know too many party faithful on either side willing to take this risk for just one vote.

  11. Bob Irvin says:

    In the interest of full discussion, I wanted to provide this article by Hans von Spakovsky, which does indeed respond specifically to the New Yorker piece that was prominently cited in the “last round.”

  12. Wyc Orr says:

    Thanks, Bob — despite my strong feelings on this subject, always good to see countervailing articles which provide data different from what we all like to read which supports our already-made-up minds. Another reason why I think collaborative bipartisanship needs to be added to our mutual interest in accountable, ethical government as a prime objective and recruiting tool of CCGA.

  13. Emmet Bondurant says:

    The relevant question in so far as photo ID laws is concerned, is not whther voter fraud of some kind exists, but whther any of the examples cited by von Spakofsky involves impersonation of a voter at the polls as distinguished from the myriad of other kinds of vote fraud.

    And even if von Spakofsky can find at least one case of impersonation somewhere, is the prevention of that one case worth the cost of making it more difficult for the estimate 11% of registered voters who do not have a driver’s license to vote.

    If you discourage 10 registered voters from voting on election day, in order to prevent the hypothetical and unproven risk that some imposter might try to pass himself or herself off as a registered voter at the polls on election day, have you made democracy with a little “d” stronger or weaker?

  14. Bob Irvin says:

    Given the fact that I co-sponsored the first Voter ID law in Georgia, and that Emmet was the attorney on the unsuccessful lawsuit to invalidate its current version, it’s probably too much to expect that we would agree on this issue. But it’s good for democracy, for people of good will to air the arguments! The fact that I’m not replying to the points below doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to say, just that I think it’s time to declare, ‘Nuff said!

    Thanks to all for participating.

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