Amazing, but true. The NAACP is concerned about vote fraud. As a result, the venerable civil rights organization is demanding an election investigation. Voting rolls need to be purged. Really.
This could become the start of a bipartisan crusade. The NAACP and conservative groups, such as the American Civil Rights Union, could together insist that only citizens, currently alive and residing in their claimed jurisdiction, are entitled to vote. Left and right could unite behind the principle that voting is a basic right that must be protected, both from those who would prevent properly registered Americans from participating and those who would dilute Americans’ votes by allowing those not eligible to cast ballots.
Alas, the NAACP appears to be concerned about election fraud only in the town of Phenix, Alabama. So far the group has said nothing about Democratic political activists apparently promoting election fraud across the entire state in the upcoming Senate election.
Battles for local office can be intense. Everyone knows everyone. Election antagonists may have battled each other for years, sometimes decades. Results often are very close.
So it was in Phenix in November. In a special election for city council, three candidates vied for the seat of a councilman who had died. Vickey Carter Johnson fell just short of a majority, so a run-off will be held.
After the vote, it was revealed that 82 of those registered lived outside the district. Contrary to state law, they used business addresses to register. City officials said they were “disturbed” at the result. As well they should be. Johnson, who came so close to victory, complained that “it would have made a huge difference.” The city manager believed the high number of improper votes suggested a conscious plan.
Of course, there’s no way to fix the result, since it is impossible to tell how anyone voted. All the city can do is drop those who are improperly registered before the run-off. At least only legal voters will be able to participate in the next round.
But in most American elections there is no second vote. People usually cast one ballot in one election, and that’s it. There’s only one chance to get the vote right. Which is why it is essential to make sure the registration list is correct before people go to the polls.
Yet the ACRU found numerous jurisdictions with more people registered than residents, with large numbers of registrants 100 and even 200 years old, and non-citizens on the rolls.
In most cases, local officials did not engage in fraud. They simply didn’t put in the effort necessary to keep the rolls up-to-date.
But that’s no excuse. The integrity of America’s democracy is a vital interest for all of us. Inaccurate lists are an invitation to fraud.
Indeed, the Alabama Senate run-off has turned into a controversial, high-profile race. But it shouldn’t matter what most of us think. The citizens of Alabama are entrusted with choosing their next Senator.
However, some liberals on the social media site Reddit.com urged blatant election fraud, noting that “The Democratic Party needs” residents of Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee “to make a short trip to Alabama on December 12 and vote against the right-wing Republican Senate candidate.” The post helpfully noted that buses were “available.” Not coincidentally, the Reddit participant had a twitter account “Ready for Warren.”
While public exposure of an attempt at election fraud is the best way to defeat it, a more sophisticated plan for illegal voting could succeed. Especially in a close race, illegal votes could make the difference, as the residents of Phenix, Alabama found out.
This is why President Donald Trump created a commission to promote election integrity. And why the ACRU has been filing lawsuits to force counties to clean up their rolls. Unfortunately, however, so far the NAACP and other liberal groups have consistently opposed efforts to ensure accurate voting lists and legal elections. Frankly, it looks like the left wants to make voter fraud easier.
Elections matter. We should make sure that everyone eligible is able to vote, but only those who are eligible are able to vote. That requires making sure election rolls are accurate and asking voters to prove their identity. There’s nothing radical about doing so. Why shouldn’t the government safeguard the process through which voters choose those who will make our laws, take us into war, and determine our futures? As the NAACP seems to have finally recognized in one town, at least, election integrity matters for all of us.
Ken Blackwell is a member of the Policy Board of The American Civil Rights Union.