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5.9.12

Lame remarks need not deter LA from improving vote laws


While generally the comments made by former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial at his party’s national convention have no basis in reality, they illustrate why tighter voting registration requirements are vital to the health of American representative democracy, including in Louisiana.

Morial, who now heads the National Urban League, opined to Democrats that laws requiring certain, positive identification of potential voters were a plot by wild-eyed racists, presumably not Democrats, to bring back “the old Jim Crow.” Then in expressing approval of laws that allow for loopholes, he firmly came down in the camp of those who would subvert democracy because anything but laws mandating strict identification measures with government-supplied, if need be free to recipients, photo identifications cards allow for fraud.

The vanguard states for honesty at the polling place are Indiana and Georgia, which have these requirements. Even without that identification, one can vote provisionally but then shortly after the election must produce it for the vote to count. Other states like Louisiana generally require photo identification but have exceptions granted that easily may be used to cheat.

R.S. 18:562 governs procedures to voting, requiring the government-issued identity card but then allowing voting without it under two scenarios. One is by using a “generally recognized picture identification card that contains the name and signature of the applicant,” which cannot be too difficult to fake, and the other is if one can answer questions from information gathered at registration, contained on the voter rolls with election commissioners. None of it is difficult to obtain, with the only piece beyond easy (such as address) being mother’s maiden name.

This setup leaves many openings stemming from the law headed straight to fraud. For example, Louisianans who are attending college in other states but registered here, instead of voting absentee, are vulnerable, as are those in nursing homes. The dead if not reported remain on rolls. And the biggest loophole unique to Louisiana inspired from the 2005 hurricane disasters, still on the books, are the “displaced” people who remain automatically on the books even if they have not resided in the state, parish, or precinct since a gubernatorially-declared disaster.

Extending these examples and assuming in each case no intent to aid in fraudulent voting, in a family where a student is out of state and does not intend to vote another member may pass along information to an imposter. Nursing home workers in cahoots with a party or candidates can get to the needed information to provide to impersonators, even as simply as asking residents they know who will not vote in what appears to be normal conversation. Someone whose family member is displaced and does not intend to vote can slip the needed information to an impersonator. And these are just the instances where the person being impersonated has no knowledge of it; easier scenarios can be constructed when that person actively participates in the scam.

Arguments against tightening requirements to the Indiana/Georgia standards are that fraud is relatively rare and that to do so creates an unconstitutional burden (akin to a poll tax). But to make such argumentation only shows ignorance or disingenuousness. The U.S. Supreme Court and a lower federal court ruled years ago such standards did not create an undue unconstitutional burden, and the low known rate of fraudulently votes cast probably pales in comparison to the unknown number that do get cast illegally but never are discovered. Regardless, there is nothing more precious to maintaining the integrity of democracy that in fairness in voting, so even if superior measures discourage only one additional illegal ballot, they’re worth it.

There is no good reason not to support these kinds of laws. Thus, Morial, out of factual idiocy, dishonesty in motives, or both, certainly is not on the side of election integrity and disgraces himself and his organization to impute bad faith to those who want only every valid vote to count in protecting the integrity of democracy in America. His failure in this regard also reminds Louisiana policy-makers that the state’s election code could use future upgrading in this way as well.

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