Editor’s note: This commentary appears courtesy of Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest), who represents District 5 in northwest Arkansas. This article first appeared in the latest magazine issue of Talk Business Arkansas.
The problem of voter fraud has two important components. The first component is that it’s very difficult to catch and prosecute. The second component is that there will always be people who deny that it exists.
The detection of voter fraud is extremely rare. As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals pointed out in the historic case that ultimately concluded in the Supreme Court’s holding that voter ID requirements are constitutional, the rarity of prosecution for in-person voter fraud can be “explained by the endemic under-enforcement” of voter fraud cases and “the extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” without the tools – such as a required voter ID – required to detect such fraud.
Last September, one of my Senate colleagues explained to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that requiring ID at the polls “seems like a solution chasing a problem that doesn’t exist. On the very day this quote appeared in the newspaper, another member of the General Assembly resigned from the state legislature and pled guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit vote fraud.
It’s too bad that vote fraud is so hard to catch, and it’s too bad that some people deny that it happens. But those of us who care about the integrity of the ballot need to do more than express regret about vote fraud. Every American voter has a constitutional right to a fair election, and that constitutional right is vulnerable to attack by election fraudsters. We know that election fraud has a long history in Arkansas, some of it engineered by government officials. Requiring voter ID is one of the best ways to cure in-person voter fraud.
I’m well aware that the liberal activists at the ACLU insist that in-person vote fraud is too small a problem to be concerned about. I disagree.
In the 1980s, a New York grand jury detected and detailed a widespread in-person vote-fraud conspiracy that had been in operation for over a decade. This conspiracy resulted in thousands of fraudulent votes being cast in state and federal elections.
America is one of the only democracies in the world that does not require voters to present photo ID. Mexico requires both a photo ID and a thumbprint to vote, and turnout has increased in Mexican elections since the requirement was instituted in the 1990s. Turnout increased in multiple American states after voter ID requirements were passed in them; I suspect that this had something to do with increased confidence in the election process.
Some people argue that there are large numbers of people who cannot afford to pay for an ID. The number of Arkansans without an ID is likely very small, but I certainly support the concept that public money should be used in order to pay for IDs if there are voters who cannot afford them. I have worked to establish voter ID for the last four legislative sessions, and every single bill we have produced to further this policy (including this year’s bill) has contained a measure to ensure that if a citizen cannot pay for an ID, the taxpayer will pick up the tab.
Voter ID prevents and deters impersonation fraud. It blocks voting under fictitious registrations, as well as double voting by people who are registered in more than one state and voting by illegal aliens.
In 2005, the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by ex-President Jimmy Carter, found that “the electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.” That commission concluded that “there is no doubt that voter fraud occurs” and that voter fraud “could affect the outcome of close elections.”
As the commission noted, photo IDs are typically required to travel by plane or to enter federal buildings. The right to vote deserves just as much protection.