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LA needs strengthening of voter ID requirements

That the cause of elections integrity has suffered setbacks in some states in recent weeks does not mean that Louisiana should not do more to strengthen its semi-lax laws regarding voting.

Of course, recent judicial interventions overturning state laws requiring forms of photo identification to vote, done largely at the hands of appointees of White House Democrats and who tend to liberal jurisprudence, represent a political strategy. By hoping to push these cases into the Supreme Court next year, now equally balanced between justices who make decisions on the bases of activism and of constructionism, in counting upon a leftist jurist to replace the vacancy of the late Assoc. Justice Antonin Scalia they hope to find a way to create a court to invalidate such requirements. The left believes by degrading elections integrity it will gain an electoral advantage as non-citizens and less-informed citizens who would be less likely to make the effort to acquire photo identification typically are more manipulable and more prone to identifying as Democrats.

Scalia, probably the most brilliant member of the Court over the past several decades, probably would have applauded the dissent in the highest profile of these cases, Veasey V. Abbott heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which pointed out the majority’s politicized assumption that strict identification laws automatically connoted discriminatory intent. The problem is activist judges routinely commit such errors in pursuit of a political agenda, and his replacement if of that sentiment likely would send the entire Court in that direction on this and many other issues.

Faulty judicial logic notwithstanding, laws that maximize protection in voting integrity remain on the books in certain states, but do not exist in Louisiana. While the state has a photo identification requirement, those with malevolent intent easily can circumvent it.

The best standard for such laws perhaps rests in Georgia, which defeated attempts to derail this in both state and federal courts over the past few years. Unlike Louisiana where it is possible to vote without photo identification, Georgia requires one, and if all else fails, gives them away for free at the county level.

Louisiana’s choice not to make an ironclad requirement of photo identification stems from two reasons. Historically, the federal government objected to the state’s first attempt at producing something like Georgia’s law, minus the opportunity for free cards, for this identification in the case of mail registrants voting for the first time. As a result, the state made an affidavit exception for all voters, but in doing so created a wider conduit for potential fraud.

Cost also might play a role. Provision of free cards does require the state to pony up a modicum of funding. However, keeping elections clean should not depend upon price considerations. And the 1997 law that required photo identification actually has a provision that allows issuance of free cards if a person displays a valid registration that then was estimated to cost fewer than $2,000 to fulfill. But the law does not require its use for those with no other recognized card.

Interestingly, opponents to strengthening elections integrity, as a backup to alleging discriminatory intent, often argue the reputedly rare instances of recorded fraud makes stronger protection unneeded. But this straw man fails both at a factual and conceptual level. In the past two decades, one source has gathered over 300 incidents of fraud, many dealing with votes cast (others with bribery, counting, or registration), and cautions the list is nowhere near comprehensive. And no one really knows the amount of fraud that has gone unreported or undetected, in part because leftist interests and politicians do everything they can to neglect trying to stop or attempting to deflect investigations into such fraud.

Yet even one instance of fraud is one too many that ought to offend anyone who values American democracy. The sanctity of democratic governance demands the utmost efforts to prevent fraud, or else this cheapens the ideals of self-governance and brings into question whether America practices true one-man, one-vote democracy that does not violate equal rights by empowering some over others. No effort is too great to prevent fraud.

While fraud can happen in other ways, Louisiana should seal off the particular avenue of impersonation at the polls. Regardless of the cost involved in supplying free cards, at the next legislative session lawmakers should eliminate the affidavit loophole and require photo identification. Elections integrity is too important to surrender it to specious fearmongering.

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