One of the arguments now being used against requiring a voter ID at the polls is that there are very few cases where voter fraud has been uncovered. That is a reasonable argument, but there is also a reasonable explanation for this: It is the voters who are responsible for detecting voter fraud, not the election authorities. If I don’t know who you are, how do I know you are who you are supposed to be when you vote?
North Carolina Statute 163-87 says that a registered voter of that voter’s precinct may challenge a voter for presenting himself to vote when he is not who he represents himself to be. So simply, we the voters are the election police. I must live and vote in the precinct where the fraudulent voter is voting to challenge that voter’s identity. Additionally, there is a definitive time when a challenge to a voter’s identity must be made.
Now do you remember the last time you voted? How many voters standing in line with you did you know? Could someone have stepped up to the registration book and given elections officials a name and an address and you not know that wasn’t their correct name and address? How close would you have had to have been to hear their name and address?
Suppose someone did give a wrong name and address and you knew it. Are you willing to immediately challenge that voter’s right to vote, and do you know what would happen if you did? A hearing challenging the voter’s qualification to vote would be held by the precinct election officials at the precinct prior to the poll’s closing based on your complaint. Are you willing to initiate this? The North Carolina Legislature stipulates that it is your duty as a voter to detect fraud, not the State Board of Elections, nor the county board of elections. Precinct officials may also challenge a voter’s right to vote, but typically they don’t know all the residents anymore than you do.
So how easy is it to commit voter fraud? It’s as simple as standing before an election official and giving a name and address.
We live in a transient society. While Pasquotank County has only 40,000 residents, it is a very mobile community. As a bedroom community of Hampton Roads, Va., home to a U.S. Coast Guard Base, two universities and a community college we have the names of many people on our registration records who no longer live here. Reviewing tax records — easily obtainable online — and voter registration records — also available online through the N.C. Board of Elections — will give you a wealth of potential “voters” and they don’t even have to be dead.
Purchase a list of all the registered voters in Pasquotank County and look at all the registered voters at Elizabeth City State University. In the 2009 municipal election a voter voted using 1704 Weeksville Road (ECSU) as their address, but they registered at that address in 1997 — 12 years earlier. ECSU is small by comparison to other colleges and universities, so compound the wealth of easily accessible names available to be hijacked.
I am not implying that students are voting illegally; but their names remain on our registration books long after they leave, and because the majority are from out of town and out of state and they live in a closed community we don’t know them, so their names are can easily be used for fraudulent voting.
Showing an ID to vote is simple. So simple, that I don’t understand the fight against a bill to make showing an ID to vote a state law. After all, if the hospital admissions clerk, my physician, my bank teller and the cashier at CVS can ask for ID, why not an elections official?
As a voter with the responsibility of detecting fraud, I would like to put the burden back on the appropriate authorities, the county elections boards. The only feasible way to do this is by requiring voter ID at the polls.
I hope that you will contact your representatives and ask them to vote for House Bill 351 and Senate Bill 352 that will require voters to show ID at the polls. In Pasquotank County, please contact Bill.Owens@ncleg.net and Stan.White@ncleg.net.
Betsy Meads is a resident of Elizabeth City and a former member of the Pasquotank County Board of Elections