FedSoc Blog

Debate on Civil Rights and Voter Fraud Draws Attention

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by Justin Shubow
Posted November 16, 2011, 12:48 PM

The Federalist Societ'y recent National Lawyers Convention continues to receive a lot of press. The blog of Legal Times, for instance, highlighted the panel debate on civil rights and voter fraud:

A panel of long-time election watchers debated the extent and severity of voter fraud in the United States on Friday, as part of the Federalist Society's annual National Lawyers Convention.

Moderated by U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith, the four panelists sparred over whether requiring photo identification would help or hurt the election process.

Griffith said that allegations of election fraud have been part of the political conversation for centuries in the United States, but that advances in technology - the rise of electronic voting systems, for instance - and shifts in policy mean "these issues are not only a matter of history."

Former Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund advocated in favor of requiring voters to show a valid government ID at the polls. Photo IDs are necessary to access any number of services, Fund said, so the rules contribute to the greater good. Citing the example of several state and local elections that were decided by a small number of votes in close elections, he said, “voter fraud can make a difference.”

Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law served as the panel’s dissenting voice. Minorities and lower-income Americans are less likely to have photos IDs and could be discouraged from voting by such rules, he said, warning against conflating voter fraud with incompetence in how elections are managed. Tokaji said that reports of voter fraud, especially duplicate voting – where one person votes in the name of another at the polls – are “exaggerated.”

Hans Von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow and manager at the Heritage Foundation, said requiring IDs at the polls would not only stop duplicate voting, but would also make it harder for undocumented immigrants to vote as well. Spakovsky noted that in Rhode Island, which recently adopted a photo ID requirement, the measure was supported by a Democratic state legislature.

George Washington University Law School Professor Spencer Overton said requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls is inevitable, but the debate should be over what type of identification and, if photo IDs are required, whether there are ways to allow eligible voters without a photo ID to vote. Overton drew groans from a disapproving crowd when he proposed a hypothetical compromise to Fund – require photo IDs but allow same-day voter registration.

All four panelists agreed that requiring a photo ID at the polls wouldn’t stop some forms of voter fraud, such as absentee voting fraud, and also that election systems across the country suffer from mismanagement and partisanship.

The blog also discussed the debate at the convention over the constitutionality of Obama's health care law.

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