Individual voter fraud.
If I could reduce the font of those three words in proportion to the actual occurrences of said fraud, they would be imperceptible to the human eye, and yet, two years ago the General Assembly passed a voter ID law, which amounts to, as Steven Brown of the ACLU of Rhode Island put it, “A solution looking for a problem.”
This year, Rep. Larry Valencia aims to overturn that law. Last night, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Valencia and a host of other proponents of voter ID repeal, including Steven Brown of the RI ACLU, James Vincent, President of the RI NAACP, Sam Bell of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island, and former state prosecutor Robert Ellis Smith. Only two opponents of the repeal gave verbal testimony, one of which was Paul Caranci, a member of Secretary A. Ralph Mollis’ staff. Not surprising considering that Mollis crafted the original voter ID legislation.
Opponents of Voter ID laws have a host of issues to get fired up about. From voter disenfranchisement, to the fact that voter fraud, on an individual basis, really does not exist.
“The Bush administration assessed millions of ballots during the eight years he was in office,” Rep. Valencia said, “and found only a handful of individual voter fraud reports.” He went on to say that voter ID laws create barriers where none should exist, and that people who choose not to vote, or are turned away from the polls because they lack proper ID, rarely report these incidents, so gauging how often this happens is next to impossible.
Caranci pointed to the high turnout in the 2010 election as proof that voter ID laws do not lead to voter disenfranchisement. “We have no idea how prevalent this problem is, because we lack the tools to effectively detect and prosecute instances of individual voter fraud.” He also indicated that Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly support voter ID. Polls show that nearly 85 percent of the state support such a measure.
“Regardless of the popularity of voter ID, I support repeal,” said Valencia, “because it’s the right thing to do.”
Provisions in the Voter ID law also make it easier to vote by mail ballot, where we have seen instances of voter fraud. Ironic that a law that proposes to eliminate voter fraud that really doesn’t exist, actually makes it easier to commit fraud by mail.
Rep. Joseph Almeida peppered Caranci throughout his testimony with the mantra, “Show me instances of individual voter fraud. Show me the numbers. Show me the data.
Rep. Doreen Costa, who sponsored the Voter ID bill in the last session said, “I’m very proud of this bill. If 85 percent of Rhode Islanders support voter ID, well, we’re elected to do what they want.” Costa left the meeting before the majority of repeal proponents offered their testimony.