August 11, 2016

Vindication for Voter ID

Good news from Texas, Wisconsin and Alabama.

This week featured mostly good news on the voter ID front. We begin with Texas, where last month the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals criticized the state’s voter ID requirements — which they viewed as prejudice against minorities — and ordered a lower court to revise and remedy the law. On Wednesday, a compromise was reached. The words “soften” and “weaken” were almost universally reported in newspaper headlines — an accurate description, to be sure. But it’s equally important to note, as Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky does, that this “is probably about the best deal Texas could expect to get given the circumstances and personalities in the case.” He explains:

> “[T]he parties have agreed that Texas voters who don’t have one of the acceptable photo IDs under the statute will still be able to vote if they: ‘present a valid voter registration certificate, a certified birth certificate, a current utility bill, a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck, or any other government document that displays the voter’s name and an address and complete and sign a reasonable impediment declaration.’ … Texas actually managed to get better terms than either North or South Carolina since, in addition to completing a ‘reasonable impediment’ declaration, the voter will have to show some kind of document such as a utility bill or bank statement with his name and address.”

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a ruling by District Court Judge Lynn Adelman, who objected to and subsequently nullified that state’s voter ID mandate. The appeals court declared: “We conclude both that the district court’s decision is likely to be reversed on appeal and that disruption of the state’s electoral system in the interim will cause irreparable injury.” This case is independent of a similar one involving District Court Judge James Peterson, but let’s hope Peterson is similarly berated.

Finally, for those wondering why we need voting laws, consider the case of Olivia Lee Reynolds of Dothan, Alabama, who along with two other people conspired to rig a municipal election by falsely tallying votes. A jury found Reynolds culpable last year and she was ultimately sentenced to probation. Despite pleading guilty, Reynolds went through the appeals court seeking to have her sentencing overturned. Last week, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals denied her request.

Keep in mind, it’s almost impossible to convict of voter fraud. Prosecutors just happened to find one needle in a haystack. Last August, Barack Obama asserted, “[A]lmost nobody wakes up saying, ‘I’m going to go vote in somebody else’s name.’ Doesn’t happen. So the only reason to pass [voter ID] law[s], despite the reasonableness of how it sounds, is to make it harder for folks to vote.” Actually, it’s to prevent folks like Reynolds from rigging elections.

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