Hans von Spakovsky, a former Fulton County Republican party official and now a star of the right’s nationwide effort to suppress voting through strict voter ID protocols, continues to pretend that in-person voting fraud constitutes a major threat to American democracy.
Yet when challenged to present evidence of such a threat, as he was in a recent article in The New Yorker, he continues to fail.
For example, in responding to the New Yorker article, von Spakovsky listed a series of recent alleged voting fraud cases that to his mind justified the expense, bureaucracy and obstacles to voting created by voter ID laws. They were:
– the Democratic nominee for Maryland’s first congressional district removed from the ballot after it was discovered that she had registered and voted in both Maryland and Florida in the 2006 and 2008 elections;
– an Arkansas legislator resigning after pleading guilty (with three other defendants) to committing voter fraud;
– a Canadian couple and a Mexican citizen arrested for illegally registering and voting in Iowa;
– a New Jersey resident convicted on multiple counts of voter fraud;
– three Indiana residents (including a former Democratic mayoral candidate) indicted for voter fraud;
– three Ohioans indicted for double voting;
– a Mexican drug dealer’s guilty plea for voting illegally in the 2008 presidential election;
– Florida’s discovery of nearly 200 non-citizens illegally registered to vote, and
– a city-council race in Vernon, Calif., overturned owing to voter fraud.
That’s the best he could do?
Once again, none of the examples could have been prevented through voter ID. Requiring a drivers license to vote, for example, does nothing to prevent non-citizens from voting because citizenship is not noted on the license.
Also note that none of the examples cited by von Spakovsky involved an organized effort to alter an election through fraudulent in-person voting. Several involved absentee balloting, the easiest and most popular way to abuse the electoral process. However, it is noteworthy that the Republican Party has in general tried to expand absentee voting without tightening oversight because that’s the means that many of its own voters tend to prefer.
Which brings us to the story of 97-year-old Peggy Cobb of Sandy Springs, as related in an email from her son Bill:
“I now have a crystal clear, visceral understanding of why some politicians think voter ID laws are so important. The suppressive power of this law to deter people from voting is far greater than I realized. Meet my mother.
She is 97, in good health and with virtually all her marbles (bad hearing loss, though), living an active, independent life in Sandy Springs. She moved here four years ago or so. Had one knee replaced a couple years ago.
Peggy has voted in every presidential election since she was eligible, and most if not all others, too. She pays attention to this stuff more than a lot of people I know. She insists, often with me chafing, on hearing the other side.
She has a Fulton County voter registration card and has voted in every election when she’s been here. Her expired Indiana driver’s license used to be enough ID at the polling booth. No more.
But all she had to do was go to a driver’s services office, show the necessary documents, and get her Georgia Voter ID. Some waiting. No fees. Great deal.
So Peggy gathered up her voter registration card, some utility bills, bank statements, rent receipts and tax returns and went to Driver Services. They said “Great, you have everything you need. Except a birth certificate.”
She went back home and eventually figured out how to order a birth certificate from Minnesota, where she was born and married. Six weeks later, it arrived. Peggy returned to Drivers Services very enthusiastic, since the election was only a couple weeks off. They said “Great, you have everything you need, except the last name on your birth certificate isn’t the same as on all these other documents.”
Well of course not, she got married in 1943. What else could that middle initial “V” stand for except her maiden name, Vanstrom?
No Georgia voter ID card for Peggy without a marriage certificate.
I rarely ever see my mother near tears, but I did then. Some combination of rage and foreboding maybe. Luckily, the Minnesota county that has her marriage certificate is very user friendly. They even do same day turn-around and overnight delivery, if you pay for it. Time was short. $53. But UPS screwed up and misdelivered it, so Minnesota sent another one (no charge) to my house. My wife and I made sure one of us was home all day to sign for it.
Yesterday, back to Drivers Services. A friend drove her. They said, “Great, you have everything you need, except your Social Security number doesn’t match our system. Sorry, no exceptions.”
The friend, who had only bargained for lunch really, drove Peggy home to search for more papers with her Social Security number on it, then drove her to a Social Security office in Marietta. The agent could find nothing amiss, and gave her some papers.
Drivers Services finally relented and gave Peggy a Georgia voter ID yesterday, 5 days before the election. What would she have done without that determined friend?
You probably can’t truly appreciate the physical and emotion toll this ordeal has taken on Peggy. She definitely can’t believe it.
“Why is Georgia doing this to me! Do they want me not to be here? I thought government was supposed to make voting as simple as possible. I don’t understand it!”
I explained the reason for Georgia’s anti-fraud requirements with a joke I heard a long time ago. It begins with a guy standing around constantly snapping his fingers.
“Why are you doing that?” someone asked.
“I’m keeping the elephants away.”
“What? There’s never been an elephant within a thousand miles of here!”
“See, it’s working.”
The reality, of course, is much more mean-spirited and pernicious. Peggy got the joke right away. But she’s still not happy. It’s not funny. At all.
No, Peggy’s not happy. In a later message, she herself spoke of her frustration with what she calls “Beautiful Georgia, my adopted state as I finish life’s journey.” Voting absentee, she says, “seemed sensible.” But on the other hand, she wanted to once again feel the excitement of voting in person, on Election Day.
“This year 2012 held new significance … my last year ever to vote in a presidential election. I wanted to feel part of this great privilege, wanted to again walk out of my precinct tapping my Georgia Peach voter sticker. Even if the day were dark, gloomy and cold, the sun would be shining.”
But “government intrusion stripped me of my established legal right to vote in 2012 unless I complied with new restriction laws…. I will vote in person on Nov. 6 but my spirit is broken. Trust in the government of my adopted state is shattered, a cruel joke.”
– Jay Bookman