I wrote here and here about an apparently coordinated effort by far-left organizations and the Obama administration to demonize and frustrate the states’ efforts to protect ballot integrity by preventing voter fraud. Tonight, the Obama administration put its cards on the table when Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech on “voting rights” at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas. The text of Holder’s remarks is here.
There was, of course, a certain irony in Holder’s choice of a site for his speech. Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965–Holder’s intended reference–but he is also associated with voter fraud. It is universally acknowledged, I believe, that Johnson stole his first Senate election in 1948, and voter fraud carried out under his expert guidance in 1960 helped Kennedy carry Texas. So Holder’s placing himself in the tradition of Lyndon Johnson invokes an ambiguous heritage, at best.
Like the left-wing speakers at Saturday’s march in New York, Holder made it sound as though the Democrats, with their hoses and dogs, were back in control of the South:
[T]oday, a growing number of our fellow citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions, and problems that – nearly five decades ago – LBJ devoted his Presidency to addressing.
As Congressman John Lewis described it, in a speech on the House floor this summer, the voting rights that he worked throughout his life – and nearly gave his life – to ensure are, “under attack… [by] a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, [and] minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.”
But we already knew that the Democrats are trying to stir up racial division in order to agitate their party’s base. What, exactly, does the Obama administration propose to do? Holder outlined a three-part plan:
The first involves deceptive election practices – and dishonest efforts to prevent certain voters from casting their ballots.
Over the years, we’ve seen all sorts of attempts to gain partisan advantage by keeping people away from the polls – from literacy tests and poll taxes, to misinformation campaigns telling people that Election Day has been moved, or that only one adult per household can cast a ballot. Before the 2004 elections, fliers were distributed in minority neighborhoods in Milwaukee, falsely claiming that “[I]f anybody in your family has ever been found guilty [of a crime], you can’t vote in the presidential election” – and you risk a 10-year prison sentence if you do. Two years later, 14,000 Latino voters in Orange County, California, received mailings, warning in Spanish that, “[If] you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in jail time.” Both of these blatant falsehoods likely deterred some eligible citizens from going to the polls.
And, just last week, the campaign manager of a Maryland gubernatorial candidate was convicted on election fraud charges for approving anonymous “robocalls” that went out on Election Day last year to more than 100,000 voters in the state’s two largest majority-black jurisdictions. These calls encouraged voters to stay home – telling them to “relax” because their preferred candidate had already wrapped up a victory.
In an effort to deter and punish such harmful practices, during his first year in the U.S. Senate, President Obama introduced legislation that would establish tough criminal penalties for those who engage in fraudulent voting practices – and would help to ensure that citizens have complete and accurate information about where and when to vote. Unfortunately, this proposal did not move forward. But I’m pleased to announce that – tomorrow – Senators Charles Schumer and Ben Cardin will re-introduce this legislation, in an even stronger form. I applaud their leadership – and I look forward to working with them as Congress considers this important legislation.
It will be interesting to see the proposed legislation, but one can’t help but be struck by the Democratic elite’s low opinion of the party’s rank and file. Do they seriously believe that Democratic voters are so dumb that they are fooled by claims that election day has been moved to Wednesday–a claim that has never been made, as far as I know, except as a joke–or that only one person per household can vote? My opinion of Democrats is not high, but I don’t think they are that stupid. Beyond that, we will have to wait and see what “fraudulent voting practices” this new legislation will criminalize. I think we can safely assume that the proscribed practices will not include, for example, filling out ballots for elderly patients in nursing homes who suffer from dementia, or giving immigrants who do not speak English sample ballots with all the Democratic candidates checked.
The second area for reform is the need for neutrality in redistricting efforts. Districts should be drawn to promote fair and effective representation for all – not merely to undercut electoral competition and protect incumbents. If we allow only those who hold elected office to select their constituents – instead of enabling voters to choose their representatives – the strength and legitimacy of our democracy will suffer.
Who is not in favor of neutrality in redistricting efforts? It is interesting, however, that this was the point about which Holder was least enthusiastic; in fact, the quoted paragraph is all he said about it. Call me cynical, but I don’t expect Holder’s DOJ to do anything about redistricting in blue states that favors Democratic Congressional candidates. DOJ will only scrutinize redistricting in red states, especially the Southern states that are discriminated against in the Voting Rights Act.
Holder continued with point three, his most radical proposal–an effort to do away with voter registration altogether. Try to follow this one carefully:
One final area for reform that merits our strongest support is the growing effort – which is already underway in several states – to modernize voter registration. Today, the single biggest barrier to voting in this country is our antiquated registration system. According to the Census Bureau, of the 75 million adult citizens who failed to vote in the last presidential election, 60 million of them were not registered and, therefore, not eligible to cast a ballot.
Well, yes. This country has always had a system of voter registration. Only eligible, registered voters can cast a ballot. Why? This is the most elementary check on voter fraud: you can only vote if the local electoral authorities know who you are and have certified that you are eligible. An attack on this system is astonishingly radical, but that is exactly what Holder has in mind.
All eligible citizens can and should be automatically registered to vote. The ability to vote is a right – it is not a privilege. Under our current system, many voters must follow cumbersome and needlessly complex voter registration rules.
Are you kidding? It has never taken me more than a few minutes to register to vote. It is easier than, say, driving to the local liquor store to buy a six-pack of beer.
Fortunately, modern technology provides a straightforward fix for these problems – if we have the political will to bring our election systems into the 21st century. It should be the government’s responsibility to automatically register citizens to vote, by compiling – from databases that already exist – a list of all eligible residents in each jurisdiction. Of course, these lists would be used solely to administer elections – and would protect essential privacy rights.
It is hard to understand what this means. What databases will tell us who lives in a particular precinct and is an eligible voter? Is there a database for illegal aliens? For felons, who in many jurisdictions are not eligible to vote? And assuming that we have a database of sorts, how exactly would a system that does not include voter registration work? Evidently a person can show up at the polls and claim to be anyone who is automatically on the list as a voter. In Eric Holder’s world, there is no registration–same day or otherwise–and certainly no requirement to present identification. So I take it that the Democrats could identify all of the people who are listed as eligible voters in a given precinct (putting aside the difficulty of doing so), and send activists to the polls, pretending to be the one-third to one-half of automatically-registered voters who will not, in fact, show up to vote. There is no registration process, no identification requirement, nothing to prevent Democratic Party activists from casting millions of fraudulent votes. Is that what the Obama administration has in mind? I think so. If not, Mr. Holder or one of his representatives should explain to us how his proposed system will work.
The Obama administration needs all the votes it can get, given its unpopularity with the American people. The question is, will the administration get those votes by persuading legitimate, eligible voters, or will it try to make up the deficit by enabling the casting of millions of fraudulent votes by Democratic Party activists? At the moment, it looks as though the latter is the Obama administration’s chosen course.
Some may think this assessment is too harsh. Some may say that the Democrats just want everyone under the Sun to vote; that they may be misguided, goofy liberals, but they just want everyone to participate. How do we know that this perspective is false? Because there is, in fact, one constituency whose votes have been systematically excluded in recent years. They are members of the military. And the Obama administration has actively collaborated in suppressing the military vote–even though many members of the military are minorities–because it doesn’t favor Democrats. The Obama administration, in particular its Department of Justice, is hopelessly corrupt.
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