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On early voting, and the myth of voter fraud

Long lines are being reported at early voting stations [1] across the state – so much so, the executive director for the State Board of Elections wants county boards to consider extending early voting times and adding more weekend days. It’s expected more than two million people will take advantage of early voting in North Carolina this year.

So what to do to pass the time, should you find yourself standing in one of those long lines waiting to cast your ballot?

You might want to check out the latest piece that journalist Jane Mayer wrote for The New Yorker magazine:

The Voter-Fraud Myth [2]
The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls [3]

It’s a lengthy, fascinating read about Hans von Spakovsky, a Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Administration, who has “had an improbably large impact” in promoting strict voter-I.D. laws across the country.

Here’s a short excerpt:

At the Heritage Foundation, von Spakovsky emphasized that his devotion to safeguarding voter integrity had nothing to do with racial discrimination or partisan gain: “I’m not in this because I’m on a team. I believe in having fair elections, and I would never be willing to do anything that would encourage or allow cheating in an election. My interest is in making sure that the person who people vote for the most wins.”

Yet many Democrats see his cause as a voter-suppression effort in disguise. Thirty-three states have passed some form of voter-I.D. law, the most severe versions of which demand government-issued cards with photographs and expiration dates. A driver’s license typically qualifies, but many students, elderly people, and poor urban residents do not have one.

According to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, a libera [4]l nonprofit institute at N.Y.U. Law School, eleven per cent of the voting-age population lacks the kind of I.D. cards required by the strictest states. Eighteen per cent of Americans over the age of sixty-five do not have such documentation; among African-Americans the figure is twenty-five per cent. Von Spakovsky criticized the study for focusing not on registered voters but on all Americans who are eligible to vote. He cites rival studies indicating that the number of registered voters without I.D.s is negligible.

The vast majority of the lawmakers who have pushed for voter I.D.s have been Republicans. As Bill Clinton has put it, “This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate”—when many young and minority voters stayed home—“than the 2008 electorate.” Clinton said that the “effort to limit the franchise” was the most determined “since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting.”

You can read the full piece here in the magazine’s current issue [3].

Von Spakovsky visited Raleigh in September 2011 at an event sponsored by the John Locke Foundation [5] and the Federalist Society to promote the need for a voter photo ID law in North Carolina.

That legislation did not pass North Carolina’s General Assembly in the last short session, though legislative leaders have promised the issue will be back on their agenda in 2013 [6].