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National Law Day and identity theft

National Law Day 2014 theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.
National Law Day 2014 theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters.
American Bar Association

National Law Day is celebrated today, and this year’s theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. What does the right to vote this have to do with identity theft?

Voter ID laws are currently in place in more than 30 states. For those classrooms participating in Law Day, one lesson outlined by the American Bar Association is a discussion on the pros and cons of voter identification. We have stated in this identity theft column that voter fraud is a type of identity theft and depending on the circumstance such fraud could preclude the victim from casting a ballot in an election.

The fact that there are few prosecutions for voter fraud is often used as evidence that voter fraud is not problematic. However, an overarching fact is that there are no controls in the polling places that do not require voter identification to detect, report and prosecute voter fraud. Voter fraud is almost impossible to detect after the fact.

We know that fraud occurs, and because local elections are often determined by literally a few votes, fraud can affect the outcome of an election easily. (This author lost a local election by several votes a decade ago when there were rumors of voter fraud.)

One poll worker that we interviewed said that when they reported the same person voting multiple times on a single day to the poll supervisor, that nothing was done. This poll worker said they observed fraudulent activity election-after-election for a period of over a decade and that their reports of fraud were ignored by those supervising the polling places.

In a recent election we observed a person who was transporting foreign speaking voters to the polling place and assisting them by completing their ballots. When this was reported during one of the incidences to the supervisor, the supervisor and poll workers were confused as to what they were supposed to do. They agreed that what was occurring in front of their eyes was not permitted in the polling place, however, nothing was done.

There are reports from states that recently enacted voter identification laws that voter participation increased including voting participation by minorities. Some suggest the increase in minority votes show that the majority support voter identification requirements. Yet earlier this week a Federal Court struck down Wisconsin’s voter ID Law saying it disproportionately burdened black and Hispanic voters.

In our opinion the argument that voter identification laws disenfranchise minorities is not defensible. It is challenging if not impossible to function legitimately in modern society and within the government safety net for those with low incomes without having a valid government-issued identification.

For example, when the author moved his 88-year-old mother to Wisconsin from New York State in 2010, one of the very first items of business was to get a state-issued identification in order to open a bank account and to obtain health care. Social Security and Veteran’s assistance payments cannot not be deposited, cashed, or negotiated without a picture identification. Federal laws require a government-issued photo identification for banking and for medical treatment regardless of race, color, creed, or income level.

The process of getting a picture identification for this senior citizen that had ambulatory challenges and no current valid identification took approximately 20 minutes at the DMV including the additional time it took because the DMV claimed the Social Security card was fraudulent, because they had never seen one that was issued in the 1930’s.

Opponents of voter id laws argue that identification should not be required because the right to vote is constitutional. We argue enthusiastically that voter id is necessary because voting is a constitutional right that we must assure that only American Citizens with that constitutional right are casting one ballot.

In this digital age, fraudulent documentation (lease agreements, utility bills, birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc.) can be easily created by anyone to identify any person--living, deceased, or fictitious. Because unofficial documents like these are acceptable for “same day” voter registration, voter fraud is easy and can go undetected. Common sense, not calculus, says a more reliable form of official identification must be required to protect our constitutional right to vote and to prevent identity theft at the polls.

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