Political Animal


September 15, 2012 9:45 AM How To Lose The Moral High Ground On Voter ID

By Ben Jacobs

Democrats have successfully gained the moral high ground in the fight on voter ID. Oft-cited examples of voter ID fraud have been disproven and partisan attempts to purge voter rolls in states like Iowa have been successfully combated. Even in states where voter ID laws seem like to be enforced in November, Democrats have already initiated well-organized efforts to guarantee all their voters have the necessary id by Election Day.

How can Democrats undermine their credibility on this issue? By nominating a candidate for Congress who committed voter fraud. In Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, a relatively safe Republican district that combines the Eastern Shore and the more conservative suburbs of Baltimore, it was discovered that Wendy Rosen, the Democratic nominee for Congress, had voted in both Florida and Maryland in multiple elections this week. Rosen has dropped out of the race and Democrats are already searching for a write-in candidate, since it is too late for Rosen’s name to be removed from the ballot.

This has already drawn notice on conservative blogs and is bound to become the basis of future GOP talking points. Although voter ID would not have prevented Rosen from voting twice, it still provides an easy and highly-charged example of voter fraud that voter ID advocates can use as circumstantial evidence.

In the fight over voter ID laws that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, Republicans have had difficulty finding a villain and have normally resorted to ominous hypotheticals. Rosen has now provided them with a straw man in this crucial debate.

Ben Jacobs is a journalist living in New York. He is a former reporter for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and contributor to the Boston Globe editorial page. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs.


  • c u n d gulag on September 15, 2012 10:36 AM:

    In the defense of the MD Democratic Party, and the other 49 state's Democratic Parties, I don't think the question, "Have you committed voter fraud at any time in your life?", is one that is normally asked.

    Now, I don't know, maybe it does need to be asked.

    Or, maybe people who think they might want to run for office, and have committed voter fraud, SHOULD HAVE THE COMMON SENSE TO NOT RUN!


  • zandru on September 15, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Frankly, one wonders just how many wealthy folks/interstate commuters do this. If you maintain "residences" in more than one state (and perhaps pay taxes), it would be trivial.

    We know that a certain number of multi-home millionaires fill out multiple Census forms. Voting is something they could theoretically do much more frequently.

  • John on September 15, 2012 10:49 AM:

    God, that's two terrible posts from Jacobs now.

  • John on September 15, 2012 10:53 AM:

    to be more specific, both of Jacobs's posts so far have been "woe is me" posts. First, we get a post about how there's going to be a huge backlash in Wisconsin from that judge ruling the collective bargaining law unconstitutional. Next, a post on how the Democrats have "lost the moral high ground" because of this crazy fluke that the Democratic Party had no ability to prevent.

    Jesus Christ.

  • stormskies on September 15, 2012 10:53 AM:

    The spinning red light on the Drudge Report just exploded ...........

  • jpeckjr on September 15, 2012 10:54 AM:

    As long as election laws are the purview of the states, and there is no nationally searchable database of all registered voters, what Rosen did will be possible.

    I despise the voter ID laws, but must acknowledge there are some questions to ask about our registration systems. The three qualificaitons to register are residency in the jurisdiction where you vote, age (constitutionally established at 18), and citizenship.

    When you registered, were you asked to prove your citizenship? I wasn't in spring 2008 when I moved and registered in my new state -- residency and age, yes, but not citizenship. Hell, I wasn't when I registered the first time over 30 years ago, on my 18th birthday.

    I went with a neighbor of mine shortly after his naturalization to register him to vote. He had his naturalization papers with him, but the registrar said "We don't need to see those. We take your word for it." So, just a week earlier, he could have registered without being a citizen and no one would have noticed.

    While I do not see evidence that large numbers of non-citizens are trying to vote, given that manipulative politicians could benefit from this gap, the question about proving citizenship to register is worth asking.

  • sjay on September 15, 2012 11:00 AM:

    Didn't Ann Coulter do something similar a few years back in Florida? At any rate, since the Democratic party turned Rosen in as soon as they learned (in contrast to the likely Republican reaction had one of their candidates done the same thing) I think they have done all they can to maintain the high ground.

  • Robert on September 15, 2012 11:11 AM:

    Voter ID addresses one and only one of the potential voting problems: voter impersonation. It would not have prevented Rosen's fraud, which was almost certainly absentee voting fraud and double registration.

    So even this "poster child" for fraud would not be resolved by voter ID. That's because voter ID is the fraud.

  • schtick on September 15, 2012 11:18 AM:

    The fact that the dems won't protect their own, which is good, won't be taken into consideration by the teapubs nor the airheads that listen to Rush or watch Faux. The fact that most voter fraud is committed by teapubs is never brought into the conversation. A dem was caught therefore, in their eyes, dems are evil and whatever lies the teapubs say about them are truth. People with brains and common sense can see that, the rest believe what they are told.

  • Varecia on September 15, 2012 11:23 AM:

    jpeckjr: "...When you registered, were you asked to prove your citizenship? I wasn't in spring 2008 when I moved and registered in my new state -- residency and age, yes, but not citizenship. Hell, I wasn't when I registered the first time over 30 years ago, on my 18th birthday.

    "...I went with a neighbor of mine shortly after his naturalization to register him to vote. He had his naturalization papers with him, but the registrar said "We don't need to see those. We take your word for it." So, just a week earlier, he could have registered without being a citizen and no one would have noticed..."

    It's my understanding that the registrar can't refuse anyone who wants to fill out a voter registration form, according to the voting rights act. It is up to the county clerk's offices to review the registrations and verify these things and cull those that don't meet the requirements.

  • Neildsmith on September 15, 2012 11:55 AM:

    Ugh. I just wish people would vote once. There are so many Americans who can't be bothered that it's hard to get worked up about a couple of people who vote in multiple locations.

  • JM917 on September 15, 2012 1:03 PM:

    We need a national voter registration process, one that would take registering to vote entirely out of the hands of local officials and state lawmakers. Getting registered to vote should be an automatic, computer-driven process that enrolls individuals at multiple essential life landmarks, with the computerized system set up to deal with overlapping inputs.

    For example, males could be enrolled as voters when they register for the draft, as they're (still) required to do on turning 18. (Better, create a national service system that enrolls young people of both genders.) Everyone should be registered to vote when first applying for a Social Security number, with the computerized system activating the voter registration on the eighteenth birthday. Obtaining a driving license, filing an IRS return, and/or having a payroll deduction taken out of your paycheck (and, to keep the NRA happy, legally purchasing a firearm) should all feed into a national computerized voter registration system, as should collecting unemployment or disability benefits and Social Security payments. Of course, naturalization would also trigger official registration to vote, and any official recognition of a death (the registration of a death certificate, the ending of SS benefits, etc.) would feed into the system to cancel voting registration associated with that name and SS number.

    Using Social Security numbers would guard against registering the same person multiple times, as would recording the place of residence in each instance where the name and SS number go into the system. Changing one's residence, whether precinct-to-precinct or state-to-state, would automatically carry over into the national voter-registration system.

    Every local polling place should be wired to the national voter registration database, and on the election days (yes, in-person voting should be spread over the four-day period running from the preceeding Saturday until the first Tuesday in November, with amnple opportunity also to cast absentee ballots well in advance) voters should be required to give only their SS number or their driver's license as identifying one's address--which would have caught the kind of voter fraud Ms. Rosen committed. In the event of a question of identity or other challenge to one's right to vote, provisional ballots should be mandated.

    Conviction of any felony should automatically cancel one's right to vote, to be restored (either at once or after a further waiting period) upon completion of sentence, parole, or acceptance of clemency.

    The United States should also adopt from the new democracies of the Middle East--you know, the places liberated by George W. Bush--of requiring voters to dip their forefinger in ink indelible enough to last the full four days of the long voting "weekend." That's a great idea for many reasons.

    My most utopian suggestion is that the United States adopt the practice of Australia, Belgium, and certain other countries in making voting mandatory: if you don't show up at the polls, you get fined. Exceptions could be made for bonafide Jehovah's Witnesses and the like.

  • pea on September 15, 2012 1:05 PM:

    When my mom got quite elderly, she voted by mail. It would have been easy for someone else to use her absentee ballot (sitting on the table for weeks) to vote in her name w/o her realizing it. With so many elderly people in nursing homes, etc, this could be one source of actual voter fraud. Not saying it's necessarily happening on a large enough scale to worry about, but there is potential. Of course the elderly are very vulnerable on MANY counts.

  • matt w on September 15, 2012 1:08 PM:

    So the Democrats have lost the high ground in their struggle against voter ID by nominating a candidate who committed a kind of voter fraud that voter ID wouldn't have prevented, and then by forcing her to withdraw as soon as it was discovered?

    Oh-kay. Way to swallow Republican spin whole.

  • BC on September 15, 2012 1:41 PM:

    I will believe the Republicans are anti voter fraud when someone in that party points out that Senator Richard Lugar was in violation of voting law when he voted for almost 30 years using a residence he neither owned nor occupied. Another case of IOKIYAR.

  • Steve P on September 15, 2012 2:21 PM:

    And then there's the little matter of whether the addresses on Rmoney's tax returns jibe with his voting records.
    If Johnny and Joanie Deadline ever get tired of talking about the Duchess of Earl's boobys, we might actually get some reporting on it.

  • Greg Shenaut on September 15, 2012 2:30 PM:

    Yes, as the article says, this has nothing to do with voter ID. When Democrats have pointed to studies showing that there is no need for voter ID laws, they've never said that there has never been any election fraud. What they've said is that there no evidence of a significant number of cases where people have pretended to be someone else in order to vote. Furthermore, they've pointed to strong evidence that the voter ID laws will prevent large number of qualified voters from voting. You see: no evidence of a problem, strong evidence of adverse consequences of the solution to the non-problem. That's the voter-ID debate in a nutshell. (Accompanied by various awkward remarks by Teapublicans that voter-ID would, in fact, differentially benefit their own candidates.)

    If the thesis of this post is that Democrats have claimed that elections fraud is unknown or unimportant, that's just silly. Remember the voting machine tampering scandals? There's a case where mostly Democrats were working to shut down a very large possibility of a new type of large-scale elections fraud that was supported and promulgated most by Republicans. In those cases, no one would be disenfranchised. Instead, rich voting machine manufacturers and their allies in (mostly Republican) governments would lose some money. And large scale elections fraud would be blocked. From this and many other examples, Democrats are aware of the existence of electoral fraud and have worked actively to block it.

    As for this particular case, well, obviously there can be bad apples in every barrel. All you can do is what has already happened in this case: toss them out and try to do the best you can without them.

  • Ken on September 15, 2012 8:30 PM:

    What about the speculation that Mitt Romney committed voter fraud? Voting in Massachusetts while living in La Jolla. Except Romney CLAIMS he was living in his son's UNFINISHED basement when he voted. Of course, if we had Romney's TAX RETURNS, we could see what state he claimed as his legal residence at the time.

  • Adrian Seltzer on September 16, 2012 2:56 PM:

    The PA law does NOT prevent fraud, since as one example, your photo ID does not have to have a current address allowing fraudulent voting in different districts.

    Getting a Pennsylvania State ID is especially difficult for seniors, who in many cases have been voting legally for decades. PennDOT locations are not convenient for non-drivers and their hours are limited causing excessively long waits at some centers.

    Please sign & share my petition to postpone the Voter ID law in PA Tell your story when you sign my petition. Share it with everyone you know. The more signatures the greater the impact.. We have almost 4900 signers.

  • Sandy Rosenberg on September 17, 2012 8:39 AM:

    Florida has lots of snowbirds but hasn't joined compact that shares registration lists with other states. If it did, Rosen's dual voting would have been nipped in the bud. I guess combatting fraud is in the demographics of the voter.