The Democrats in the House of Representatives last week provided a good way to measure just how far left they have drifted, when they managed to maneuver to the port of former President Jimmy Carter by opposing legislation that would require would-be voters to provide a photo ID before voting in federal elections.
The most obvious explanation for the Democratic position on this issue is that they hope to benefit in future elections from illegal votes cast by some of the 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in the United States.
Beer and Cigarettes
Last September, the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, made a sensible proposal for stopping voter fraud—which, even at minimal levels, could alter the outcome of close elections such as the 2000 presidential contest.
“The electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters,” said the Carter-Baker commission. “Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings and cash a check. Voting is equally important.”
“To insure that persons presenting themselves at the polling place are the ones on the registration list, the commission recommends that states require voters to use the REAL ID card, which was mandated in a law signed by the President in May 2005,” said the commission. “The card includes a person’s full legal name, date of birth, a signature (captured as a digital image), a photograph and the person’s Social Security number. This card should be modestly adapted for voting purposes to indicate on the front or back whether the individual is a U.S. citizen.”
Only three of the 20 members of the Carter-Baker commission dissented from this recommendation. They were former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.), former National Council of La Raza President Raul Yzaguirre and liberal George Washington University Law School Prof. Spencer Overton.
House International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde (R.-Ill.) sponsored the Federal Election Integrity Act of 2006 (H.R. 4844) to do exactly what the commission recommended. In 2008, it would require voters in federal elections to present a government-issued photo ID when they vote. In 2010, it would require them to present the REAL ID card, modified as suggested by the Carter-Baker commission to show whether or not the holder is a citizen.
Anticipating that some Democrats would claim this requirement amounts to a “poll tax,” placing an unfair financial burden on poor people who don’t drive and who wouldn’t otherwise secure a state-issued photo ID, Hyde put language in the bill requiring states to give the cards to the poor for free.
“That is some kind of poll tax when somebody else pays for it,” Hyde said sarcastically on the House floor last week.
So state governments could not complain about an unfunded mandate, the bill requires the federal government to reimburse the states for the cost of handing out free ID cards to the poor.
Finally, to make sure people who forget or misplace their IDs on Election Day are not disenfranchised, the bill allows voters to cast “provisional ballots” without a photo ID so long as they come back within 48 hours and present one to an election official.
The bill was a no-brainer for any member of Congress sincerely interested in making certain U.S. elections stay honest.
“We should all be able to agree that every eligible citizen should be able to vote, should be encouraged to vote, to vote only once, and to be assured that their vote will not be diluted by an illegal vote,” said House Administration Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R.-Mich.) in floor debate: “If we agree on that, we should be able to agree that making people identify themselves when they vote is a simple and necessary safeguard.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) did not agree, citing a long list of liberal organizations opposed to the bill. Among them: the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Democratic Action, Common Cause, Emigrantes Sin Fronteras, the National Council of La Raza, the National Center for Transgender Equality and People for the American Way.
Pelosi feigned outrage that people should be required to demonstrate they are U.S. citizens when voting in U.S. elections.
“Integrity?” she said. “It is not about integrity. It is about a tawdry attempt by Republicans to suppress the votes of millions of Americans.”
Even though photo IDs will be given to the poor for free, she shamelessly made the “poll tax” argument. “By forcing voters to undergo time-consuming, burdensome and expensive attempts to secure documents, this Republican voter-suppression bill is a modern-day poll tax,” she said.
Rep. Ehlers, echoing the Carter-Baker Commission, pointed out that people already have to undergo the same process merely to buy a six pack of beer or a pack of cigarettes. “But every day millions of Americans show a photo ID to pay by check, board a plane or buy alcohol or tobacco,” he said. “Surely the sanctity of the ballot warrants as much protection as these other activities.”
Common sense, however, swayed almost no members of the Pelosi Party. The bill passed 228 to 196. But only four Democrats—Melissa Bean (Ill.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.)—voted for it.
Across the aisle, only three Republicans—Charlie Bass (N.H.), Jeb Bradley (N.H.) and Don Young (Alaska)—voted against it.
Here is a clear and significant divide between the parties. Republicans backed a sensible means for stopping illegal aliens from corrupting U.S. elections. Democrats did not.