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Monday, January 30, 2012

Voter Suppression at the Roundhouse - Guest Blog by Paul Stokes

Paul stokesFollowing is a guest blog by Paul Stokes. Paul has been engaged in election integrity activities since the 2004 election.

The voter suppression crowd doesn’t give up easily.  Paul Weyrich, co-founder of ALEC and the Heritage Foundation, famously said, “I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Cathrynn Brown, R-Eddy, has introduced HB 113, an almost identical photo voter ID bill to the one introduced last year at the New Mexico Legislature.  That bill didn’t pass, but it was close in the House, and we must do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t pass in the current Legislature.

Let the people voteThe proponents of photo voter ID do not admit that its purpose is to suppress the vote.  No, they say that it is necessary to prevent voter fraud.  This flies in the face of numerous studies that have shown that the incidence of voter fraud is rarer than being struck by lightning.  The truth is that New Mexico already has an effective voter ID requirement.  Its effectiveness is confirmed by my favorite study conducted by the Republican National Lawyers Association that found that three persons were charged with voter fraud in New Mexico over the last ten years.  Two of those were by election officials who opened a ballot box during the county canvass without the required approval of a district judge – probably an unintentional oversight - and one was a person illegally registered in Texas and New Mexico who voted both places – for himself as a candidate for judge in New Mexico no less.  Notice that none of these cases would have been prevented by photo voter ID.

On the other hand, studies have shown that about ten percent of the voting population does not have a photo ID.  Sure, special IDs may be purchased (or you may sign a statement saying you don’t want to pay) for voting purposes.  But some will forget or have difficulties getting to an office issuing the photo IDs.  The elderly, students, minorities, the poor, and persons with disabilities are the most likely to be affected by a requirement to have a photo ID to vote.

There is no doubt that the attempts to suppress the vote are being done for political purposes.  Over the last year, thirty-four state legislatures have passed or introduced legislation for photo voter ID.  In many cases, other voter suppression methods such as limiting or ending early voting were also included.

The New Mexico constitution says that “All elections shall be free and open, and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”  A photo voter ID requirement will prevent some qualified voters from voting.  The proponents of photo voter ID say that a photo ID is needed to rent a movie, so why not for something as important as voting.  The reason, of course, is that voting is a constitutional right guaranteed by both the US and New Mexico constitutions, while renting a movie is a privilege granted by a vendor.

It is unfortunate that the average citizen doesn’t have the time to consider all these facts.  It just seems natural amongst many of us who have a driver’s license that photo voter ID makes sense.  So, polls consistently show that a majority of the public believes that voting should require a photo ID, and our state senators and representatives feel the pressure.  Please write, call, or visit your legislators and tell them that a photo voter ID requirement is unfair and that you want them to vote against it.

January 30, 2012 at 06:13 AM in Election Reform & Voting, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2012 | Permalink


Thanks for covering this for us. Lots of us went up last year to fight pretty much the same thing.

I hope people realize how strict the one in the Legislature is, compared with the one already approved for the City Elections, and on the list for the State. And that the real potential for fraud is in the absentee voting, which doesn't require any ID except an address and signature.

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Jan 30, 2012 9:20:11 AM

Michelle, you are right that absentee voting is where the real vulnerability to fraud exists. For what it's worth, the Republicans modified their bill last year to include the requirement of a copy of the photo ID with the absentee ballot. Of course, that's of no help, because there is nothing on file with which to compare the photo ID. Even if there were, a little cutting and pasting would solve that problem for the potential fraudster.

Which brings to mind other problems with photo voter IDs: What guidance will be available to poll workers to determine whether a voter's appearance matches a photo ID? What recourse does a voter have if (s)he is incorrectly rejected because poll workers don't think (s)he looks like the photo?

Posted by: Paul Stokes | Jan 30, 2012 10:06:20 AM

This seems like a no-brainer that the 99% should oppose. Thanks for making the link to ALEC.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Jan 30, 2012 11:41:47 AM

Democrats need to take this issue seriously.

Extraterrestrial aliens impersonating voters and casting fraudulent ballots is the real risk, and it won't be alleviated by a photo ID.

We need X-Ray scanners in all polling places to weed out those extra-terrestrials who are wearing latex disguises that make them look human.

If Democrats would add the X-ray requirement to the voter ID requirement, I'd support it.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Jan 30, 2012 6:06:41 PM

With respect to your quote from the NM Constitution: “All elections shall be free and open, and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”

Why do we register voters? How do we have residency, age, citizenship, and other constraints placed on people by others with power? Isn't his unconstitutional then too?

Posted by: dave | Feb 25, 2012 3:25:11 PM