Is voter fraud ever acceptable?

Published 12:32pm Tuesday, September 25, 2012

By JIM McCLENDON / Guest Columnist

How many fraudulent and dishonest votes are acceptable? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand?

Those are the questions I asked myself during a recent legislative session when my Democrat colleagues in the House argued that there was not enough voter fraud in Alabama to require citizens to present a photo ID before casting a ballot.

In my opinion, even one fraudulent ballot contaminates the sanctity of honest elections.

It was for these reasons that I strongly supported Alabama’s new photo voter ID requirement and continue to do so today despite attempts to weaken it by the Obama Justice Department and the Alabama Democrat Party.

Alabama has had a long history of voter fraud, especially throughout the Black Belt region where, for decades, offering money, cigarettes and other goods in exchange for absentee ballots, casting votes in the name of another and reviving the dead from graveyards across the region on Election Day were well-documented occurrences.

Concerned citizen groups from across the state would often ask governor after governor for help in preventing the fraud, but without an ironclad voter ID requirement, little could be done.

Finally, Gov. Bob Riley was able to convince the Democrat-led Legislature to pass a voter ID bill early in his term, but, quite frankly, it left much to be desired. Under our current law, citizens may present one of 19 different forms of identification at the polls, but many of them do not contain a photo and several, such as a utility bill or a bank statement, can be easily borrowed or stolen and used.

That’s why I helped successfully pass a new, tougher requirement that demands voters present a photo ID. Because Democrats claimed that many low-income citizens do not possess photo ID, the new law provides them one free of charge. Even those without the proper ID at the polls will still be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, which will be set aside and reexamined if fraud is suspect.

Alabama’s stricter requirements will go into effect during the 2014 statewide primary elections if cleared by the Obama Justice Department, but therein lies the rub.

South Carolina and Texas approved new voter ID statutes very similar to the one we passed in Alabama, but the Justice Department has already denied their requests for pre-clearance. Those decisions are being appealed to the federal courts. The American Civil Liberties Union has also sued states that have passed strong ID requirements.

Protecting the ballot box from being infected with fraud is serious business, so it’s my hope that sometime in the next two years, saner heads will be placed in charge at Justice and our law will be allowed to move forward. Our votes are sacred and should not be lost through the deception and dishonesty of others.

Rep. Jim McClendon, a Republican representing portions of St. Clair and Shelby counties in the Alabama House, is currently serving his third term as a member of the Legislature.

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