This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Times on October 21, 2008.
While we hear a lot about "partisan politics" in the media, most Americans do not define themselves, first and foremost, by their political party. Many people's beliefs do not fit neatly into the label of "Republican" or "Democrat."
The cultural identity of many Americans supersedes their views about the role of government or the proper way to increase health-care coverage. Part of that identity is the belief in the value of a fair fight and in the fundamental right of the American president to be elected by a transparent and accurate vote.
That's why the widespread and blatant voter registration fraud and outright voter fraud being reported nationwide is not a partisan issue. This illegal activity affects all fair-minded Americans who want a free, fair and honest election.
Republicans and Democrats alike should be up in arms because voter fraud is a direct threat to freedom and bedrock American beliefs. Outlets for voters to express their concern are available on both sides of the political divide - and well they should be.
As news reports demonstrate, the voters' concern over fraud is not unfounded. In Florida, we've got people registering Mickey Mouse to vote. In Nevada, they attempted to register the Dallas Cowboys' starting lineup. Ohio has unfortunately been plagued by persistent and widespread voter registration fraud this year. Stories of teenagers signing dozens of registration forms and criminals brazenly voting multiple times with fake addresses dominate the evening news coverage and fill the morning papers.
The actions of unscrupulous activists have been made easier by rulings on early voting, and an overall indifference to fraud from the state's top elections official. New opportunities now exist for widespread fraud, which could seriously compromise the accuracy of this election. For example, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner recently interpreted Ohio law to allow for people to cast an absentee ballot on the same day that they register to vote. Her edict on that issue is one of many she will have to address as concerns of voter registration and voting fraud continue to grow. Ms. Brunner's recent bombshell announcement that out of the nearly 200,000 of the state's 660,000 new voter registrations are in question, raises the stakes. This means information provided by a person registering does not match that person's corresponding information on file at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles or the Social Security Administration.
Ms. Brunner then took the extraordinary step of refusing to provide the mismatched voter data to county election officials. After vigorous objections by Ohio Republicans and the free-market think tank the Buckeye Institute, a federal district court and its appellate court ordered her to make the information available. The matter made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that federal courts lacked jurisdiction. Republican lawyers are now arguing the case before Ohio's Supreme Court.
Ohioans, I suspect, find Ms. Brunner's protestations curious. They want Ms. Brunner to make sure the voter rolls are correct and fraud free. In fact, voters across the country want that too. They do not want to be embroiled in months of post-election litigation and uncertainty. Imagine a repeat of Florida 2000 occurring in Ohio or in multiple states across the country, with disputes over who was properly registered, where fraud occurred and which votes should count. It will make the "hanging chad" debacle look like a walk in the park.
This, however, can be avoided by closely examining suspicious registration and voting activity now, while there is still time to prevent these fraudulent votes from entering the system. Fraudulent activity undermines the fundamentals of democracy. Voter fraud contaminates the integrity of our election system.
The right to vote is one of our most basic rights, and it is subverted whenever a qualified voter's ballot is denied or when a legal vote is nullified by a fraudulent vote. Our election process must therefore receive the most vigorous protection possible, to ensure that all legal votes are counted, while all illegal votes are not.
To their credit, many states have initiated investigations into voter fraud, and some courts have acted to force officials to examine or adjust their voting practices. But leaving the future of our country in the hands of others is never a wise idea.
A clear message from the voting public is the most effective way to ensure that secretaries of state and other authorities vigorously protect voters - and this country - from unsavory activists who are looking to subvert the election.
Mr. Blackwell, who served as Ohio secretary of state, is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.