60 Minutes aired an interesting segment, “The Perfect Score: Cheating on the SAT,” recently. The report investigated how Sam Eshaghoff, a nineteen-year-old college student, was able to fraudulently take the SAT and ACT college admissions tests for high-school clients. Earning up to $2,500 per test, Eshaghoff took the SAT at least 16 times, even taking the tests on behalf of girls. Eshaghoff needed only “a little piece of plastic that got laminated once” to dupe test administrators. He says he wasn’t the only one at his high school cheating like this.
This segment on test fraud got me thinking about voting fraud, specifically about the high-profile showdown between the Justice Department and South Carolina over a new voter identification law. South Carolina recently passed a law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to vote, a measure supporters say will curb voter fraud. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department argue the law discriminates against minority voters, who are less likely to possess acceptable photo ID, and blocked the law. In a December speech, Holder asked Americans to “call on our political parties to resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success.” Currently, 15 states require or plan to require voters to present photo ID in order to vote.
At the heart of the dispute is the fact, according to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, “that 8.4% of white registered voters lacked any form of DMV-issued ID, as compared to 10.0% of non-white registered voters.”
Much has been said and written about the potentially discriminatory impact and legality of the new law. I join the fray to argue, on principle, the voter identification law is just.
We, as citizens, have more than the right to vote, we have the right to vote fairly. After all, the right to pull a lever in an election booth means nothing if the election is not fair. Sam Eshaghoff showed how easy it is to fraudulently represent yourself at SAT testing locations, where photo IDs are required. How much easier, then, would it be to commit fraud when no photo ID is required? The sacred right to vote in this country is founded on the assumption that each vote will count fairly. States are justified in moving to protect that fairness if, as many states have, they deem election fraud is imminent or occurring.
Opponents of the law frequently contend that voting is different from other activities which require a photo ID. Yes, voting rights are sacrosanct and fundamental, but that doesn’t make requiring IDs unfair. The right to travel is a fundamental right according to the Supreme Court, but you must present photo ID to get on a plane. President Obama has called on “every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training,” yet taking the SAT requires a photo ID. Photo identification is required for many of the activities Americans consider “rights”—to travel, to pursue higher education, and to seek success. It is not unreasonable to require one to vote.
In challenging the South Carolina law, Attorney General Holder has once again played the race card. Speaking about some of his critics, Holder once said: “This is a way to get at the president because of the way I can be identified with him . . . both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we’re both African-American.” Criticisms of Holder, over matters like the disastrous Fast and Furious operation, are performance-based, not racially-based. White political leaders get attacked too. Holder seems to find racism where it isn’t present.
It isn’t present in the law his Justice Department has challenged. The law is a legitimate state attempt to improve the integrity of the voting process. It’s hard to believe South Carolina would battle the DOJ and attract a media frenzy in order to, as some allege, disenfranchise 1.6% more non-whites than whites. South Carolina may be an unfortunate place to have this showdown, given its history of racism, but 14 other states have deemed photo ID necessary to prevent voter fraud as well. When Indiana’s voter ID law came before the Supreme Court in 2008, the Court voted 6-3 to uphold it, with liberal Justice Stevens writing for the majority. If the Supreme Court upheld a voter ID law in Indiana, why would the DOJ challenge one in South Carolina? Just because it’s South Carolina doesn’t mean it’s racist.
The Wall Street Journal details:
South Carolina’s law, like Indiana’s and Georgia’s, explicitly addresses potential disenfranchisement by offering state-issued IDs free of charge. When civil-rights groups fretted about the ability of minority voters to get to the local Department of Motor Vehicles to pick up a free state-issued ID card, Governor Haley created an 800 number to offer free rides to anyone who couldn’t afford the transportation. About 30 people called.
Hardly an attempt to disenfranchise minorities, as the NAACP claimed when it asked the United Nations to intervene.
South Carolina not only can, but must ensure its elections are fair. The law is just.
Photo Credit: http://h1gher.com