Voter registration and Election Day

Question of the Week:

Donald Trump’s recent allegations that the election is rigged has brought up the issue of voter identification laws and their efficacy. What role do you think the state and federal governments should play in voter registration? What kind of voter identification laws are most appropriate in early voting and on Election Day?

David Fulkerson ’17 – Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective

Trump is right! This election is rigged, as are all our elections. That is of course our only agreement with the Donald. When he mentions election fraud, it is always dead people voting, “inclusive ID” laws, and private ownership of voting booths. These examples, however, are just symptoms of the real problem. Individuals are not frauding the election. The election is frauds us.

What do we mean by this? Glad you asked! For starters, corporate lobbying enables concentrations of power to buy control of this country’s political apparatus. This includes the media. Public debates are limited to a narrow spectrum of opinions. Dissent, when mentioned at all, is buried beneath a landslide of meaningless news or presented in an intentionally obfuscating context.

This is not to say that voter enfranchisement is not an important issue. American Democracy will never be what it claims to be until everyone within the nation gets a voice in how we run the nation. To only focus on electoral fraud as Mr. Trump defines it, or focus solely on voter enfranchisement and turn-out numbers, as many Democrats suggest, both miss the true fraud of our political system and will never be able to address the issues that lie at the core of our society.

Andrew Dalton ’19 – Gettysburg College Democrats

Donald Trump recently fanned the flames of yet another right-wing conspiracy theory that the election is rigged against him because of widespread voter fraud. We can now add this to the laundry list of Trump’s excuses for what may well be a resounding loss on November 8th. In Trump’s mind, the world is working against him and dead people are rising out of the grave to vote for Hillary Clinton. How much of a problem has voter fraud actually been over the years? The Washington Post reported in 2014 that “out of one billion ballots cast” since 2000, there were only 31 credible instances of voter fraud. That’s right—31 out of 1,000,000,000. Although voter impersonation at the polls is practically nonexistent in our voting system, Republicans like Donald Trump are, as usual, quick to ignore the facts.

What is far more troubling than Mr. Trump’s childish banter is the enforcement of voter ID laws by state legislatures all across the country. In fact, these laws skyrocketed after the 2008 presidential election that drew a record number of African American voters to the polls. This is no coincidence. While Republican legislators claim that the laws are in place to ensure fair elections, Representative Glenn Grothman admitted earlier this year that the laws will help Republicans by making it harder for low-income voters to make their voices heard. Those who do not have a photo ID (which is necessary in eight states) must purchase one to vote. This is not democracy. These laws are a 21st century version of the poll tax and should not be tolerated by any political party.

Alex Engelsman ’18 – Gettysburg College Independents

It is important to begin with a concrete statement. Voting is a right, not a privilege. This means that any restrictions on a person’s ability to vote must be for reasons of protecting others and themselves, as is the case with all other restrictions of citizen’s rights. So, for purposes of implementing voter ID laws, a reasonable and credible suspicion must exist that there is in-person voter impersonation happening in multiple precincts on such a level that it cannot be contributed to precincts mishandling their process individually.

To this degree, we do not believe that there is enough evidence to suggest that there is a large amount of in-person voter impersonation happening in the United States to warrant the infringement of citizen’s rights. In Michael Gilbert’s article The Problem of Voter Fraud published in the Columbia Law Review, he speaks on the issue of in-person voter impersonation, and categorically denies its existence as a problem in the United State electoral system. Gilbert goes as far to say as there were so few cases of in-person voter impersonation that if every fraudulent vote were cast in the same precinct, no outcomes would change from that precinct.

Given this, we do not believe any voter identification laws are appropriate in any elections. They inhibit more eligible voters from voting than fraudulent votes from being cast. In the words of Will McAvoy, “this is a solution without a problem.”

James Goodman ’20 – Young Americans for Freedom

Voter ID laws are important to prevent voter fraud, which could seriously hinder a candidate’s bid for election. Voter fraud is easy to commit in states without ID laws. In NY, for instance, all one needs to do is know their district and say his/her name to the polling place operator and they are handed a ballot. There is no need to show any other form of ID. In fact, if you walk up to the wrong district, multiple districts meet in the same polling place, they will just direct you to the next table or give you directions to go to another polling place. This makes it all too easy for someone to vote on another’s behalf.

While it is important for laws to be put in place to prevent voter fraud, it should not be handled at the federal level. The Constitution does not give any branch of the federal government the ability to make laws concerning how voting is handled. This is an issue that should be left up to the states to decide, as per the 10th Amendment. The Constitution clearly lays out what laws the Congress can make, and laws dictating voting is not among those allowed to be made by Congress. In fact the 24th Amendment was ratified to outlaw poll taxes.

The states could pass laws that require one to show any state or federally issued license prior to voting or receiving an absentee ballot. The Federal government could encourage states to participate in this form of voter identification by withholding federal funds until the laws are passed or providing grants. This would be a simple solution to eliminate a significant threat to our Republic.

Liam Kerr ’19 – Young Americans for Liberty

Young Americans for Liberty stands firmly behind the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, with which the founders promised that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” It is this amendment that we use to argue against any federal involvement in the issue of voter identification laws. Article II states that there shall be a federally set, nation-wide election day, which is the furthest extent of federal involvement in elections. The states, therefore, have the right to impose voter identification laws if they so choose, with notable exceptions; these laws cannot violate the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Therefore, if the laws clearly target any one group of people they can be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The Fifteenth Amendment also specifies that is United States citizens only who are guaranteed the right to vote. We also believe that if states do impose voter ID laws, they should provide voter identification cards to any citizen of that state who has no other valid form of ID, such as senior citizens or the poor.

The views and opinions expressed are the students and the organizations whom they represent and do not necessarily represent the views of The Eisenhower Institute or Gettysburg College.