Five Years Later, Still Unproven Claims by Voter ID Opponents at Debates

Published Mon, Feb 27 2012 7:17 AM

On Thursday, the National Press Club hosted a debate on voter ID featuring Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow and manager of the Civil Justice Reform Initiative Hans von Spakovsky and American Civil Liberties Union Washington legislative office director Laura Murphy. In his opening statement, von Spakovsky quoted Independent Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chaffee, who said voter ID legislation is “a reasonable request to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our elections.”

Von Spakovsky then spoke about the legal precedent supporting voter ID laws. He started by discussing the Supreme Court case that upheld a voter ID law in Indiana, Crawford v. Marion County Board of Elections. Von Spakovsky quoted the majority opinion of Justice John Paul Stevens, who said, “voter fraud is a big problem in any election.” He also discussed the unsuccessful legal challenges to voter ID laws in Georgia and Indiana because the plaintiffs failed to identify individuals that lacked photo ID and were prevented from voting.

Von Spakovsky also offered additional facts to disprove opponent’s allegations that voter ID laws cause voter disenfranchisement. He stated that since voter ID laws were enacted in Georgia, the state has seen a 6% increase in voter turnout, ranking fifth in the country. However, this does not even compare to Indiana, one of the first states to pass voter ID legislation, which has seen the largest increase in voter turnout for any state in the United States during this time period. Additionally, von Spakovsky dismissed the argument that voter turnout only increased in 2008 because it was an irregular election year, stating that the turnout for the 2010 election saw an even larger increase than turnout for the 2008 election. These facts all came directly from the secretaries of state for each state. Von Spakovsky closed his remarks by quoting Democratic Rhode Island state Rep. Jon Brien after Rhode Island passed voter ID legislation who said, “Voting is one of the most important rights and duties as an American, and should be treated accordingly.”

While von Spakovsky’s arguments were largely based on verifiable facts and legal precedent Ms. Murphy’s were not as composed. Appearing to have some facts and statistics to discount von Spakovsky’s arguments, she did not cite most of her sources. In fact, the one source that she did cite was from the liberal Brennan Center for Justice. Ms. Murphy also spent a good deal of time discussing the history of voter disenfranchisement in the United States, yet offering no modern day examples to support her theories.

Another flaw in Murphy’s arguments was that she contradicted herself numerous times in her ten-minute statement. First, she said that voter fraud does not occur in large numbers, but said later that a huge number of voters were disenfranchised by the Indiana’s voter ID law. Second, she stated the importance of voting rights under the Constitution, then said that states do not have room in their budgets to pay for free voter ID cards to ensure legally eligible people the right to vote. Murphy closed by personally attacking von Spakovsky for his support of voter ID and drudged up the same liberal fighting words by calling voter ID a “poll tax” and speculating that Republicans are “inventing excuses to deny [minorities] the ability to vote.”

The debate at the National Press Club was indicative of other debates on voter ID where an advocate for voter ID cited solid legal precedent and verifiable facts to support that voter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. Then there was an opponent of voter ID laws who offered unsupported statistics and contradictory arguments, opting instead to turn a cordial debate into a witch hunt by hurling personal attacks and insults. After the debate von Spakovsky said, “[opponents of voter ID] are unable to prove the facts they’ve been talking about for five years.”

To indicate further that supporters of voter ID have the facts on their side, please read Mr. von Spakovsky’s voter ID memorandum.

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