Ballots cast today are under scrutiny, and with 2014 mid-term elections fast approaching, we must be aware of potential abuses of our most basic right. We saw with the 2012 general election a glut of voter fraud. From Florida and Ohio to Pennsylvania and Texas, there have been reports of voting machine malfunctions, dead people on voter rolls and 99 percent of votes cast going to President Obama in some counties. This should be a concern for both parties and a non-partisan issue because no freedom-loving patriot wants the outcome of an election to be falsely skewed.
On the federal law books today are criminal sanctions for knowingly interfering with the voting process by aiding, coercing, threatening or any other action that attempts to undermine a fair and impartial federal election process. Also in force are state laws that mimic federal laws to protect the state election process. Our country has taken drastic measures to overcome centuries-long racial segregation and racist policies.
One measure is celebrating its 50th anniversary: the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Following close on its heels is the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This statute provides restrictions against racially discriminatory voting policies, making it impossible for states to deny the right to vote to minority groups.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that sections 4(b) and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act should not be extended because they exceed Congress’ power. With this, states (particularly southern states at which the statute is aimed) no longer have to check with the U.S. Department of Justice before they implement certain tests in their voting regimes. Thus, states such as Texas can successfully implement photo ID requirements at the voting booth.
Almost immediately after this decision, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed a lawsuit against Texas in federal court to prohibit the photo ID requirement that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and other state officials worked hard to implement. Photo ID at the voting booth seems like a logical idea because we need an ID to buy cigarettes, drive a car, see an “R” rated movie and various other activities so essential to the American way of life.
The photo ID requirement is an attempt to answer the robust voter fraud in our state. However, this is simply not enough. Absentee voting is a prime source of voter fraud. In order to combat this, Texas must enact photo ID requirements for absentee voting. Other suggestions to reduce fraud require proving citizenship at the polls. These would inevitably lead to a decrease in voter fraud.
Another suggestion that we should move toward is the elimination of early voting. The U.S. Constitution provides for an election day, not an election week. Early voting gives those who intend to usurp the political process more time to do so. Finally, to further ensure that our system by which we elect officials remains inviolate, the state should move to create a secret committee that routinely checks various voting polls on Election Day. This committee would act as an inspector general, that is, to be uninfluenced by the mayor or governor of the particular city or state under which the committee operates. This committee would be hired and fired by and report to the state attorney general.
Till these policies take shape, we can take action now to protect our vote. Be an election judge in a county that traditionally differs with your personal political viewpoints. Be on guard at the polls during elections. Do not go to the polls with your head down, focused on whom to vote for (this is important to be sure); be vigilant. If you spot something strange, point it out to the election judge. If the election judge appears complicit, go to the county commissioner and file a complaint. This is an effort, but an effort worth fighting for if we want to ensure valid elections.
Finally, there are many resources if you wish to educate yourself further on this topic. Catherine Engelbrecht’s organization, True The Vote, provides resources and helps inform concerned voters of the atrocities committed against our precious republican form of government. John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky’s book, “Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk,” provides detailed accounts of recorded voter fraud. The American Civil Rights Union has on its website updates on this issue and actions taken to combat voter fraud.
Be informed. Be engaged. Defend our elections.
Ryan A. Luna is a second-year law student at Baylor Law School, a husband and father of one. He graduated from Baylor University in 2011.