Our elections must be fair and open

Guest Editorial
If motives were pure, it would be much easier than it is to fashion a system in which eligible voters — and only those voters — have free access to the polls.

But that’s not the case.

On one side, there are Republicans who say they are convinced that Democrats herd illegal and phantom voters to the polls to sway elections. Nonsense, respond Democrats, who say stories of voter fraud are largely mythical and are used to deny voting rights to those who are less likely to vote for Republicans.

In the middle are the many Americans who think it just makes common sense that one should have to prove their identity to vote in the community where they live. Similarly, there should be no obstruction or intimidation that would halt people from casting a legal vote.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, struck down an Arizona law that requires people to produce proof of citizenship before being allowed to vote. Instead, the court said a less-stringent federal standard should apply. That requires voters,
under threat of perjury, to sign a form that says they are citizens.

When the Arizona law was enacted by voters in 2004, more than 30,000 people were turned away from the polls because they lacked suitable documentation. It’s unlikely they were all trying to vote illegally. Many people would find it difficult to provide proof of nationality on voting day.

For those who were trying to vote illegally, the law worked. But those who merely couldn’t produce a document were denied a basic right of citizenship. There has to be a better way.

As noted in USA Today, a bipartisan committee — headed by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter and former Republican Secretary of State James Baker — recommended a uniform photo voter ID. But the committee said such action should be phased in slowly, with plenty of time for education and for providing ways for those lacking
means — such as a driver’s license — to obtain the ID card.

That makes sense. Despite Democratic claims, there are attempts
at voter fraud. Last year in Cincinnati, for instance, a woman cast six ballots, including two for herself (one absentee and one at the polls). Oddly enough, she was an election worker.

Are such abuses as widespread as some Republicans claim? Probably not. But at a time when elections from president to school board are decided by tiny margins, it’s imperative that votes be cast honestly and counted correctly. Every fraudulent vote cancels out a ballot cast by a legitimate voter.

Ineligible voters do not all have sinister motives. Last year, our newspaper wrote about a Genoa Township resident who, as a Canadian citizen, had been unwittingly but wrongly casting votes for years.
Voter intimidation has no place in our elections. But voter ID, done right, can contribute to honest elections.