When I was young, I lived in Chicago. As a college student, I lived in Evanston, Ill., which borders Chicago on the north, and later, as a law student, I lived in the heart of the city itself. Richard J. Daley was the mayor, the Democratic Party ran the city, and voter fraud was accepted as a fact of life.
One Election Day, I went to my Chicago precinct voting station, and, while I was in line to vote, a car pulled up outside and parked illegally, and six men got out. There was an ordinary looking driver and five other men who were clearly derelicts. They came into the voting place, bypassed the line and announced that they were there to vote. The driver voted first, then each of the other five.
Each derelict told the person handing out ballots that he would need assistance in voting and asked to have the driver accompany him into the voting booth, to help him read and understand the ballot. In each case, the driver went into the booth and helped the man vote. After all six had voted, they got back into the car and drove away.
All of us who were there knew that they were headed to another precinct, where this scene would be repeated.
When the results were in, the Democrats handily won all of the contests.
A few days later the Chicago Daily News, a wonderful newspaper that is no longer in business, began a series of articles exposing the blatant fraud that had taken place in that election.
This was nothing new. The Daily News published these articles after every election. For several days the paper published names and addresses of fictitious voters who had come from their homes in vacant lots, cemeteries and abandoned buildings in order to cast their ballots.
I am sure that over the course of time the Republicans, too, have perpetrated voter fraud. It is just that, in my own experience, it has always been done by Democrats. Clearly, this colors my opinions regarding a case now pending in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Indiana, in addition to at least four other states, has enacted a law that says that a person who wants to vote needs to present photo identification in order to prove that he or she is in fact the person that he or she claims to be. The purpose of the law is to prevent voter fraud. Republicans like it. Democrats do not like it.
Democrats claim the law will prevent poor and disadvantaged people from voting because the requirement of presenting a photo ID imposes an undue burden on the right to vote. Such people, they claim, often do not have a photo ID.
The Indiana law was challenged in court by Democrats and activist groups who support Democrats. The lower court upheld the law, and that decision was approved by a federal court of appeals. One of the appellate judges, in making the ruling, said, It is exceedingly difficult to maneuver in today’s America without a photo ID (try flying, or even entering a tall building, such as the courthouse in which we sit, without one).
He could have added that you also need one to cash a check, buy a drink in a bar or drive a car. As Americans, we take it for granted that we have the right to travel freely, yet we have no qualms about demanding that citizens who leave or enter the country display a valid passport. We want to know they are who they say they are. Having a photo ID is now a fact of life. If someone does not have one, it is certainly no great inconvenience to get one.
The case contesting the law is being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, and a decision will be coming down in a few weeks. That decision will have an important influence on our future
On the one hand, we have the importance of preserving credibility in our elections. If citizens have good reason to think that elections are crooked, democracy cannot long survive.
On the other hand, we have the rather minor inconvenience of requiring that a voter bring a photo ID to the polls.
Sorry, Democrats, but I remember Chicago, and you are on the wrong side in this one.
Howard Chapman is an Adjunct Fellow of Discovery Institute