NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 9, 2008

The heated rhetoric surrounding a Supreme Court case involving Indiana's law requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls lays bare the ideological conflict of visions raging over efforts to improve election integrity, says author/columnist John Fund.

Liberal groups claim that the law keeps legitimate people from voting.  But proponents say the measure reduces fraud, which can create trouble in close races:

  • In Washington state's disputed 2004 governor's race, which was won by 129 votes, the election superintendent in Seattle testified in state court that ineligible felons had voted and votes had been cast in the name of the dead.
  • In Milwaukee, Wis., investigators found that, in the state's close 2004 presidential election, more than 200 felons voted illegally and more than 100 people voted twice.
  • In Florida, where the entire 2000 presidential election was decided by 547 votes, almost 65,000 dead people are still listed on the voter rolls -- an engraved invitation to fraud.
  • A New York Daily News investigation in 2006 found that between 400 and 1,000 voters registered in Florida and New York City had voted twice in at least one recent election.

Laws tightening up absentee-ballot fraud, which is a more serious problem than in-person voting, would be welcome, says Fund.  Curiously, almost all of the groups opposing the photo ID law before the Supreme Court today either oppose specific efforts to combat absentee-ballot fraud or are silent on them.

No matter how much voter fraud is caused by voter impersonation, Stuart Taylor of the National Journal reports that "polls show voters increasingly distrust the integrity of the electoral process."  He also notes that a nationwide poll found that, by an 80 percent to 7 percent margin, those surveyed supported voters showing "a valid photo identification." The idea had overwhelming support among all races and income groups.

Source: John Fund, "Voter-Fraud Showdown," Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2008.

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