This column by ACRU Policy Board member Hans von Spakovsky and Grant Strobl was published March 30, 2017 by National Review.
Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, is at it again, vetoing six bills aimed at preventing voter fraud and illegal voting. What does he have against election integrity? Why does he want to make it easier to commit fraud and harder for election officials to detect or deter it?
Voter fraud is a problem, in the Commonwealth of Virginia and nationwide. The database that the Heritage Foundation started less than two years is already up to 474 cases and 755 criminal convictions — and this is just the tip of the iceberg, since many cases go unreported and unprosecuted. According to a 2016 report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a small sample of only eight counties in Virginia showed 1,046 non-citizens who were registered to vote, many of whom had voted before they were removed from the voter rolls. Heritage’s database shows voter-fraud convictions in Virginia for everything from absentee-ballot fraud to false registrations to vote buying.
Yet this disturbing reality does not appear to faze Terry McAuliffe. On Monday he vetoed three of the bills. The first, Senate Bill 1253, would require poll books to include DMV photographs. Virginia already mandates a photo ID to vote; this bill would actually speed the voting process on Election Day by waiving the voter-ID requirement if a DMV picture already exists in the voter file, while acting as a check on individuals who might be trying to use a fake ID. Yet Governor McAuliffe professes to believe that this attempt to streamline the process would somehow lead to “voter confusion.” Perhaps it is the governor who is confused.
The second bill he vetoed, Senate Bill 1455, would have implemented a state version of a federal law (42 USCS § 1973i) making it unlawful to pay individuals to register to vote. Instead of giving local prosecutors an additional tool to use, McAuliffe dismissed the bill as redundant and claimed that “there is no evidence this activity is occurring in the Commonwealth.”
Perhaps McAuliffe should review the case of Appalachia, Va., mayor Ben Cooper. He and 14 co-conspirators were convicted in 2007 of absentee-ballot fraud and buying votes with cigarettes, beer, and pork rinds. Being registered to vote is a necessary precondition to getting paid to vote. In any event, state prosecutors can’t enforce federal laws and should not have to depend on federal prosecutors to go after wrongdoing in their state. Why would McAuliffe not want to give Commonwealth prosecutors the same ability to go after this kind of criminal behavior?
The third bill, Senate Bill 1581, would have required general registrars to match voter-registration information with Social Security Administration data and other state-board-approved databases to verify the name, date of birth, and Social Security number of the applicant. The bill would also require a yearly audit of voter lists using the same databases, to verify the accuracy of the information being submitted by registrants. McAuliffe vetoed this bill, too.
That was just one day in Governor McAuliffe’s efforts to suppress all effort to improve the integrity of the election process. But there is more.
Earlier this month, McAuliffe vetoed House Bill 2343, which was similar in nature to Senate Bill 1581. A small step toward identifying improperly registered voters, the bill would have required the Department of Elections to provide general registrars with the resources to compare registration data with registration data in other states and other databases to identify voters who are registered in more than one state. Is this a problem in Virginia? As of February 2016, the Kansas Interstate Crosscheck Program showed that 284,618 voters registered in Virginia were also registered in other states.
This bill would have improved the accuracy of voter rolls and ensured that dual-registered voters are not illegally voting twice. Yet Governor McAuliffe again made the completely unsubstantiated claim that investigating those who are registered in more than one state could lead to “improper disenfranchisement.”
McAuliffe also vetoed two companion bills, House Bill 1428 and Senate Bill 872, which simply extended Virginia’s photo-ID requirement to absentee voting. It required that voters who submit absentee-ballot applications must include a copy of a legally acceptable form of identification.
Nationwide, there are many cases of absentee-ballot fraud, because it is the easiest type of election fraud to commit. A 1998 report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement called absentee ballots the “tool of choice” of vote thieves. That’s why states like Alabama, Kansas, and Wisconsin have extended their voter-ID laws to absentee ballots.
Yet Governor McAuliffe claims that adding a voter-ID requirement to absentee ballots is “unnecessary” and “could improperly disenfranchise” voters. That same meritless claim was made against Virginia’s voter-ID law for in-person voting, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals threw it out last December because there was no evidence whatsoever that a voter-ID requirement disenfranchised any legitimate voters. In reality, the real disenfranchisement is when a legal vote is canceled by an illegal one.
One of McAuliffe’s most outrageous vetoes killed Senate Bill 1105. The bill was simple: Municipalities should investigate and audit voter rolls if there are more registered voters than eligible voters, or if more people vote than are registered. The reports from these investigations would be sent to the State Election Board and would be made public. Again, McAuliffe claimed that this bill, which merely calls for an investigation when there is evidence that there are more voters than there should be, risks “improper disenfranchisement.”
McAuliffe is nothing if not consistent. He has vetoed every bill passed in the current legislative session that would improve the integrity of the state’s election process. In 2015 he vetoed House Bill 1315, which would have required county jury commissioners to send general registrars information on individuals who were disqualified to serve as jurors because they were not U.S. citizens, were no longer residents of Virginia, had been convicted of a felony, or had been adjudicated as incapacitated. There was no reason to veto this bill unless the governor wanted to make it easy for ineligible voters to continue to vote illegally and not get caught.
Why has Governor McAuliffe vetoed every reasonable effort to ensure honest and fair elections in Virginia? Well, the overwhelming number of felons vote for Democrats. Non-citizens also favor Democrats over Republicans. Could it be that the governor believes that illegal voting benefits his political party? Yet surely no governor would be more concerned with his party’s success than with ensuring that every legal vote cast by an eligible American truly counts. Would he?