It’s been a good couple of weeks for voting rights. Judicial opinions have struck down or limited strict voter ID laws in several states, showing that politicians cannot be trusted to write laws that effect our elections. In the past two weeks, courts in Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina have rooted out partisan abuses by invalidating or limiting strict voter ID laws. These decisions show that politicians do a poor job of crafting election rules. Most often, the main motivation is to discriminate against members of the opposite political party, often with racial overtones as well. Indeed, North Carolina argued (unsuccessfully) that benign politics, not race, motivated its voter ID law. But why should the issue of how best to run our elections turn into partisan warfare? Why must litigants and the courts spend their resources to root out these abuses? Politicians think they can win by rigging the election system in their favor. A Republican staffer in Wisconsin revealed that state Republicans were “giddy” when they passed a new voter ID law that they believed would help Republicans win in the state. A Pennsylvania lawmaker was quoted in 2012 saying that the state’s new voter ID law would help win the state for Governor Romney. Democrats have sued Arizona because they fear that the state’s voting rules will harm their supporters come November.
Election laws should be above politics. Whether to enact an election regulation should be about only one thing: will the law improve the democratic process for all voters? Yet the history of voter ID laws, among most significant and partisan issues infecting our elections, has always involved politics.
As I recount in a new book, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) slipped a voter ID provision for first-time voters who register by mail into the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, Congress’s overall response to the 2000 presidential debacle, marking the country’s first voter ID law. His stated goal was to root out supposed fraud that had occurred during the 2000 Senate election in Missouri between Republican John Ashcroft and Democrat Mel Carnahan (who died a few weeks before the election), which Carnahan won by only a handful of votes. On Election Night, Bond appeared at a Republican rally and pounded the podium, screaming “this is an outrage!” He blamed dogs and dead people voting for Ashcroft’s loss. During the Congressional debate over HAVA, he spoke of a Springer-Spaniel named “Ritzy Mekler” who was supposedly registered to vote in St. Louis. (There is no evidence that Ritzy ever actually voted.) Yet Bond never pointed to a single instance of in-person voter impersonation, the only kind of voter fraud that an ID law can address. His impetus for the law was political: Ashcroft’s close loss in 2000.
Full Article: Take politicians out of election law | TheHill.