The Unfounded Case Against Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law
August 7, 2012 - 2:04 pm
Opponents dismiss comparisons between voting and the many other instances in modern life where you have to have a photo ID because they say you are not exercising a constitutional right when you are cashing a check, buying a beer, checking into a hotel, or boarding an airplane (although the civil rights movement was based on asserting a constitutional right to public accommodation such as hotels and public transportation).
In any event, you are exercising a constitutional right when you try to enter a government building such as the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C, to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” or try to enter a federal courthouse to access the judicial system authorized in Art. III of the Constitution.
Opponents of the Pennsylvania voter ID would likely agree with the Supreme Court’s holding in Loving v. Virginia (1967), which overturned the state’s law against interracial marriage because marriage is a basic civil right protected by the Constitution. Yet the ACLU has not sued Philadelphia over its requirement that anyone applying for a marriage license provide “a CURRENT, VALID PHOTO I.D.” In fact, Philadelphia requires a second form of ID that reflects an applicant’s Social Security number. So the ID requirements for a marriage license are stricter than Pennsylvania’s new voter ID requirement.
Much is also being made of Pennsylvania’s stipulation filed in the ACLU lawsuit that there have been “no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud.” As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said when it upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, “without requiring a photo ID, there is little if any chance of preventing” this type of voter fraud. The “absence of prosecutions is explained by the endemic underenforcement” of voter fraud cases and “the extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator.”
But opponents are also making the mistake of assuming that voter ID can only prevent impersonation fraud. It can also deter voting by individuals registered in more than one state, voting by illegal aliens, and voting under false registrations. We certainly have seen evidence of some of those types of fraud in Pennsylvania. Even before the numerous problems caused by the submission of fraudulent voter registration forms by ACORN, the Justice Department prosecuted a massive voter fraud conspiracy in the 1970s in Philadelphia involving false voter registrations that were used to cast bogus votes.
In U.S. v. Cianciulli, 482 F.Supp. 585 (E.D. PA. 1979), the Justice Department prosecuted criminal conduct committed by “25 defendants and approximately 15 unindicted actors through … falsely registering to become eligible to vote in federal elections” by giving “false addresses and false periods of residence” in the first ward in Philadelphia.
The defendant who benefited from the bogus votes cast (and who provided the name for the reported decision) was Matthew Cianciulli, the state representative for the 183rd district. Five of the six defendants were found guilty on 19 counts and the remaining 17 defendants awaiting trials pleaded guilty. Many of the defendants “had never lived in, and in many cases had never set foot in, the residences listed on the registration forms” but fraudulently voted in elections.
Typical of the fraud was one couple, the Middletons, who “voted twice, once here and once in New Jersey, same election, registered twice, no problem.” Having to produce a Pennsylvania driver’s license with the actual address could have prevented the voter fraud committed in this case by false registrations and registrations in more than one state.